Fracking threatens purity of beer, say German brewers, Purity Concerns: German Beer Brewers Foaming over Fracking, Beer industry asks for halt to legislation on controversial gas extraction

Rheinische Post: mineral water company sees fracking as “life threatening” Google translation of Rheinische Post: Mineralwasserfirmen sehen Fracking als “existenzbedrohend” by PR Newswire, May 24, 2013

Dispute brews up over German shale search by Chris Bryant and James Wilson in Frankfurt, May 23, 2013, Financial Times
Germany’s brewers have warned Berlin that permitting unconventional gas exploration in Europe’s biggest economy could put the purity of the country’s celebrated beer at risk. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is drawing up a legal framework that would strictly regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Among its provisions are mandatory environmental impact studies and a ban on exploration in so-called water-protection zones. But the German Brewers Federation has written to ministers warning that until the risk of contamination of water used for brewing can be ruled out, the government should not pass the fracking framework

A federation spokesman said that many brewers are reliant on water drawn from private wells. “So long as fracking is not proven completely safe, [we say] hands off,” he said. He added that more scientific research was required. … Little in Germany is more sacrosanct than the purity of its beers, of which there are thought to be more than 5,000. Many brewers still adhere to a beer purity law that dates back hundreds of years and permits only the use of hops, barley, yeast and (pure) water.

The “Bavarian Purity Law” dates back to 1516 => Reinheitsgebot

German brewers worry fracking will compromise beer quality, Beer industry asks for halt to legislation on controversial gas extraction by CBC News, May 23, 2013
German brewers are worried that fracking, the process of extracting natural gas from underground shale deposits, will jeopardize the quality of their beer by contaminating the water supply and have asked their government to hold off on passing the fracking regulations it has been drafting for months. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has not been able to get her ministers to agree on a policy on fracking. Legislation regulating the practice has been delayed several times. Germany’s Bild newspaper reported Thursday that the country’s Brewers Federation sent a letter to six government ministers, including those responsible for health and the environment, asking them to delay the passing of legislation that would regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, saying the law does not adequately protect the water supply their industry relies on.

The German brewers say that fracking would violate the 500-year-old “purity law” (known as Reinheitsgebot) that has guaranteed that German beer is made with nothing but water, hops, malt and yeast.

Water use: the process uses large amounts of fresh or potable water. Waste disposal: Space is needed to store the waste water safely; sometimes, this involves clearing trees or disrupting habitats. The waste water must be treated at facilities that are not always equipped to remove the contaminants particular to hydro-fracking. Contamination: The fear is that the chemicals used and released during fracking contaminate drinking water and groundwater — either during the process itself or through the waste water that is recycled and used afterward. The substances released along with the natural gas can continuing leaking from the well for decades after the extraction process.The integrity of the brewing process, they said, depends on the impeccable quality of the drinking water used, and fracking could jeopardize that. They urged the government to keep debating the issue and do more to safeguard the water supply before pushing through any legislation.

Beer is sacred in Germany, which is third after Austria and the Czech Republic in consumption of the beverage. The country has about 1,300 breweries, which employ close to 30,000 people and produce 100 million hectolitres of beer a year, according to the Brewers Federation. But the brewers are not the first in Germany to raise concerns about fracking. The Christian Democratic government of Angela Merkel has already delayed the passing of fracking regulations several times and only recently came to a compromise with its coalition partner, the Free Democrats, on where in the country fracking would be allowed. The German media reported that the government agreed in mid-May to a proposal that would ban fracking in lake catchment areas that are sources of drinking water, but no regulations have been finalized and many doubt they will be before the federal elections in September. Many Germans, including ministers and other members of Merkel’s own government, remain wary of the practice, and it could be a hot-button issue in the election. Exploratory drilling has already met with protests in North-Rhine Westphalia and Lower Saxony, where much of the shale deposits are located. For now, there is no moratorium on the practice, meaning the government can technically issue drilling permits for projects that employ fracking, but state authorities have been pushing the federal government to clarify its stance and get regulations on the books.

Europe has been slower to adopt fracking than North America and does not have a European Union-wide agreement on how to regulate the process. “Europe has 75 per cent of the United States’s shale resources, but America is drilling 100 times faster than Europe,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told EU leaders earlier this week at a meeting in Brussels on the exploitation of shale gas. [Emphasis added]

Purity Concerns: German Beer Brewers Foaming over Fracking May 23, 2013, spiegelonline
Forget environmental concerns: When it comes to fracking, Germans are worried about how it might affect beer quality. In a letter to several ministries in Berlin, brewers expressed concern that the exploitation of shale gas could contaminate water supplies and thus violate the beer purity law of 1516. The fight over fracking in Germany has taken an unexpected turn: German breweries are now warning that the controversial method of extracting natural gas from rock layers deep in the earth would affect their ability to brew the best beer.

Fracking threatens purity of beer, say German brewers by Stefan Nicola, Bloomberg, May 23 2013, Toronto Star
The Association of German Breweries, which represents companies including Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and Bitburger Braugruppe GmbH, rejected the government’s planned legislation on fracking until groundwater contamination can be safely excluded.  … “We are concerned that fracking endangers the brewing water that more than half of Germany’s breweries take from private wells,” Marc-Oliver Huhnholz, a spokesman for the group, said Thursday by phone from Berlin. “And that it threatens our absolutely pure beer.” … Fracking, which is already politically and environmentally contentious in Germany as federal elections loom on Sept. 22, has attracted a powerful opponent in the country’s brewers, which together employ more than 25,000 people in an industry with sales of about 8 billion euros ($10 billion U.S.) last year. 

“Fracking is not yet a technology that we can use in Germany,” Altmaier told ARD. “I want the related decisions to be made locally, where one knows the circumstances, and not somewhere in Brussels.”

While companies such as Chevron Corp. have begun drilling exploration wells in countries including Poland, shale-gas production in Europe won’t make the region self-sufficient in natural gas, a 2012 study by the EU Joint Research Centre said. … The law, still in existence 497 years later, “guarantees a workable form of consumer protection at a time in which other foodstuffs often make negative headlines,” the Association of German Breweries says on its website. “German beer contains no artificial flavorings and no additives—only malt, hops, yeast and water.” [Emphasis added]

German brewers fret over fracking by Claudia Assis, May 23, 2013, Market Watch
The brewers said current proposals are inadequate to protect drinking water and risk breaking Germany’s 500-year-old law on beer purity. More than half of Germany’s breweries use water from private wells, and they cannot be sure the water won’t be contaminated by chemicals used in fracking, a beer industry spokesman was quoted as saying in a story in the U.K.’s The Telegraph. Fracking involves pulverizing layers of gas- and oil-bearing shale with a mix of water, chemicals, and sand. The technique, if not exactly new, has attracted fierce criticism due to its heavy use of water and fears of groundwater contamination, but it has also been praised in the U.S. for ushering in the “shale revolution.” Germans are not nearly as convinced. The issue is particularly toxic ahead of September federal elections. … Germany does not have a fracking moratorium, unlike neighboring France and the Netherlands. Members of the German government, however, have said a ban could be possible in certain areas. Fracking also faces strong opposition by German environmentalists. Germany’s beer purity law is considered the oldest consumer protection and food-safety law on the books, requiring that beer be made using only pure water, hops, and barley. It has since been modified to allow other ingredients. [Emphasis added]

Shale gas production marginal, says minister as opposition mounts by, April 17, 2013
If the Netherlands gave the green light to shale gas production it would only account for a couple of percent of current natural gas production, economic affairs minister Henk Kamp is quoted as saying by the Volkskrant. MPs want to hold a debate with Kamp on research his department is carrying out into possible shale gas extraction from deep underground. That report is due in July.

According to Trouw on Wednesday, brewing groups Heineken, Grolsch and Bavaria have come out against shale gas, arguing that the protection of clean drinking water supplies is of primary importance. Last week, Utrecht water company Vitens warned that extracting shale gas would mean drilling through fresh water reserves. Brabant Water has also made its objections known. At the beginning of April, the Financieele Dagblad reported support for extracting shale gas from under the Netherlands is fading and an increasing number of local councils are taking a stand. So far, 33 of the country’s 400 local authority areas have declared they are opposed to shale gas extraction, the paper said. Some 170 councils are thought to be sitting on shale or coal gas reserves. [Emphasis added]

US Breweries go to War against Fracking Industry by Joao Peixe, February 5, 2013, Oil Price
US brewers have now taken up their case against fracking, worried that any potential contamination of ground water supplies would ruin their business. The process of brewing beer requires clean water, with many breweries being built at the sites they are specifically for the mineral composition of the water. Simon Thorpe, the CEO of the Ommegang Brewery explained to NBC that “it’s all about the quality of the water. The technology surrounding fracking is still not fully developed. Accidents are happening. Places are getting polluted.” His brewery was built in Cooperstown, NY, due to the ready access to fresh water, but “if that water supply is threatened by pollution, it makes it very difficult for us to produce world-class beer here.” … Purification equipment at the Ommegang Brewery can filter sediment from the water, and alter the pH levels, but it cannot remove some of the chemicals that could potentially enter the water table via fracking, such as benzene, methane, and possibly diesel. If any such chemicals do enter the water supply then the brewery will have to import its water from elsewhere, or close the brewery completely. Brooklyn Brewery, also in the state of NY, is equally worried and asks for state authorities to protect their water supply.

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