Draft fracking law meets strong opposition

The cabinet agreed upon a draft law on “fracking” on Wednesday which will allow testing under stringent rules. But it is unclear whether the law will pass through the Bundestag (German parliament).

Draft fracking law meets strong opposition
An anti-fracking demonstration in front of the Chancellery on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

Under the law, proposed by the environment and industry ministries, fracking would be forbidden in environmentally sensitive areas, such as regions where drinking water is sourced. But it would not rule out commercial fracking at a later date.

Up until now no law has been passed on fracking in Germany. A proposed bill collapsed in 2013 after members of the Christian Democratic and Social Unions (CDU/CSU) objected to the lack of proper protection of water sources.

This proposal is also facing stiff resistance from inside the governing coalition as well as from the opposition Greens and Linke (Left) parties.

Several dozen CDU/CSU MPs are threatening to vote against it in parliament.

“In its current form the draft law is not something that many of my colleagues could vote for,” said CDU MP Andreas Mattfeld, who claimed that there are around 100 MPs in his faction who oppose the bill.

“We can't image that in Germany comprehensive testing will take place. We consider a limitation to make sense which takes geological conditions into consideration.”

In the Social Democratic Party (SPD) opposition centres on a planned commission which would give the green light for fracking projects once the testing phase is complete.

“I believe that the Bundestag should have the final say on this,” said SPD MP Frank Schwabe, adding that the planned commission was a concession to the gas firms.

The opposition Green Party have accused the government of preparing the way for fracking on a large scale.

“Germany needs a fracking ban," said party leader Anton Hofreiter. “On this day 15 years ago the renewable energy law was first proposed. To agree to fracking today demonstrates a regression in energy policy.”

Defending the draft law, Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks (SPD) told the Rheinische Post: “We are implementing strong controls, where previously no rules existed."

She said that she wanted to limit fracking to the extent that “no danger to people or the environment could continue to exist.”

Fracking is a process of injecting liquid into subterranean rock at a high pressure in order to create fissures from which unconventional energy sources such as shale gas can be extracted.

The process was pioneered in the USA where its implementation has led to decreases in global energy prices.

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German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

With Russia's invasion in Ukraine exacerbating high energy and petrol prices, Germany is set to introduce a second relief package to limit the impact on consumers.

German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

The additional package of measures was announced by Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) on Sunday.

Speaking to DPA, Habeck said the wave of price increases throughout the energy sector were becoming increasingly difficult for households to bear.

“Extremely high heating costs, extremely high electricity prices, and extremely high fuel prices are putting a strain on households, and the lower the income, the more so,” he said. “The German government will therefore launch another relief package.”

The costs of heating and electricity have hit record highs in the past few months due to post-pandemic supply issues. 

This dramatic rise in prices has already prompted the government to introduce a range of measures to ease the burden on households, including abolishing the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) levy earlier than planned, offering grants to low-income households and increasing the commuter allowance. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What Germany’s relief package against rising prices means for you

But since Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on February 24th, the attack has been driving up energy prices further, Habeck explained.

He added that fears of supply shortages and speculation on the market were currently making the situation worse. 

How will the package work?

When defining the new relief measures, the Economics Ministry will use three criteria, Habeck revealed. 

Firstly, the measures must span all areas of the energy market, including heating costs, electricity and mobility. 

Heating is the area where households are under the most pressure. The ministry estimates that the gas bill for an average family in an unrenovated one-family house will rise by about €2,000 this year. 

Secondly, the package should include measures to help save energy, such as reducing car emissions or replacing gas heating systems.

Thirdly, market-based incentives should be used to ensure that people who use less energy also have lower costs. 

“The government will now put together the entire package quickly and constructively in a working process,” said Habeck.

Fuel subsidy

The three-point plan outlined by the Green Party politician are not the only relief proposals being considered by the government.

According to reports in German daily Bild, Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FPD) is allegedly considering introducing a state fuel subsidy for car drivers.

The amount of the subsidy – which hasn’t yet been defined – would be deducted from a driver’s bill when paying at the petrol station. 

The operator of the petrol station would then have to submit the receipts to the tax authorities later in order to claim the money back. 

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, fuel prices have risen dramatically in Germany: diesel has gone up by around 66 cents per litre, while a litre of E10 has gone up by around 45 cents.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The everyday products getting more expensive in Germany

As well as support for consumers, the government is currently working on a credit assistance programme to assist German companies that have been hit hard by the EU sanctions against Russia.

As reported by Bild on Saturday, bridging aid is also being discussed for companies that can no longer manage the sharp rise in raw material prices.

In addition, an extension of the shorter working hours (Kurzarbeit) scheme beyond June 30th is allegedly being examined, as well as a further increase in the commuter allowance.