German Brewers Warn Against Fracking
THE HAGUE — Hops, malt, yeast, water and … proprietary fracking chemicals?
German brewers are warning against fracking in their country, invoking the beer purity law of 1516 that only allows basic, and pure, ingredients in real beer. They worry that shale gas removal could lead to a contamination of the water they use to make the national drink.
The Deutscher Brauer-Bund sent an open letter to six government ministers who are drafting new fracking regulations to call for a moratorium of the practice, according to a report in the newspaper, Bild.
“The changes in the law proposed by the federal government are insufficient to guarantee the safety of the drinking water or to satisfy the requirements for the beer purity law,” said Peter Hahn, head of the brewers association, according to Bild.
The association’s warning, made last week, carries weight in a country where the drink enjoys a wide following across age groups, political parties and socioeconomic lines. The letter represents another voice in a continuing dialogue in Europe about the safety of shale gas extraction.
The German coalition government has been working on legislation that would regulate the industry, but a vote on the law has been postponed several times. This month, the two coalition partners have agreed on certain provisions that could protect drinking water from contamination,according to the German media. Critics charge that the measures are too weak.
The green party sought a total temporary moratorium of the practice last year in the Bundestag, but its proposal was rejected.
“Fracking with poisonous chemicals should be forbidden. But the government wants to allow it on 86 percent of land,” Bärbel Höhn, a Green Party parliamentarian, told Bild. “That doesn’t just worry brewers.”
Given the popularity of beer across the country, even members of the ruling coalition parties seemed to heed the warnings of the professional association.
”The beer purity law cannot be compromised,” Herbert Frankenhauser, a representative of the conservative Christian Social Union in the Bundestag, told the newspaper. “All measures must be taken to protect water used for brewing.”
Daniel Volk, a member of the junior coalition government party, the Free Democratic Party, told the newspaper: “When in doubt, the purity law must take precedence. We must take the concerns of brewers very seriously.”
While controversy around the extraction technique may be familiar in North America, Europeans are only beginning to deal with the expansion of the practice. As my colleague Stanley Reed wrote from an anti-fracking protest in the United Kingdom this week, Europeans are worried about contaminated groundwater and a continued reliance on carbon-emitting fossil fuels.
The biggest beer producer in Europe, Germany has 1,339 brewers that employ 26,915 people, according to the association’s statistics.
At a celebration of the 497th anniversary of the beer purity law in April, the head of the association reminded audiences that the rules governing how beer is made represent the oldest food regulations on the books.
Generating fewer headlines, the German association of mineral water sources also went public with its criticism of fracking legislation last week.
© 2013 The New York Times Company.
This article originally appeared here.
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