Fracked Over: German Brewers Fear Oil Shale Extraction Could Ruin Their Beer
May 27, 2013 5:31 PM
A German lass downs a hefty stein of the nation's famous beer.
(Source: Getty Images)
Over half of brewers have wells outside of protected region, fear contamination
Much like in America
, Germany's "big oil" interests are clashing with other groups over controversial plans to "frack" the countryside --
injecting a slush of water and or chemicals at extreme pressures and temperatures
into underground oil deposits to extract "black gold". In Germany, much of the backlash against the process is coming from the nation's venerable beer industry, which is the largest in the European Union.
Germany is home to 1,300 breweries producing over 5,000 varieties of the beloved potable. Renowned worldwide, Germany's beer is held to high standards, thanks to the nation's "purity" laws ("Reinheitsgebot"), which mandate only malt, hops, yeast and water be used in the brewing process.
The German government -- led by Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition of the right and moderate factions -- is under pressure to embrace fracking and open up some of the nation's bountiful oil shale deposits for extraction. In response, her coalition is looking to put forth a law in Germany's Parliament which would allow fracking in some parts of Germany while prohibiting in regions where it could create
the worst seismological or contamination concerns
But the Brauer-Bund beer association -- the organization that represents the nation's brewers -- is pushing back, complaining that half of brewers use ground-water wells in regions unprotected by the legislation. They argue evidence shows these wells could be contaminated, fouling the beer and marring an industry worth billions to the German economy.
German brewers fear fracking could foul ground water, damaging the beer industry.
[Image Source: Al Greenberg]
A spokesperson for the organizations
, "The water has to be pure and more than half Germany's brewers have their own wells which are situated outside areas that could be protected under the government's current planned legislation on fracking. You cannot be sure that the water won't be polluted by chemicals so we have urged the government to carry out more research before it goes ahead with a fracking law."
The brewers may catch a break. The minority opposition -- led by Chancellor Merkel's critics on the left -- is moving to block the bill, effectively stalling the attempt to open the shales to fracking. Whether or not the issue reemerges thus largely boils down to who emerges victorious in September's elections -- but Germany's brewers want their letter to make clear why they're concerned.
The brewers hope that when Oktoberfest -- the world's largest beer festival, attended by 7 million visitors -- is held in Munich this fall, people will be worry about taste, not contamination.
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