The United States was the first country to begin fracking for natural gas, a violent process in which millions of gallons of water laced with chemicals are injected deep into the ground to fracture the rock and allow natural gas to flow back up to the surface along with dirty flowback water. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, Germany, and Poland have tried to jump on the fracking bandwagon; whereas others, like France, have outright banned this practice.
The United States is a fracker’s paradise because it is geographically situated to contain the largest reserves of natural gas than anywhere else in the entire world. Unfortunately, the federal government is all too willing to tap this resource as quickly as possible, and with little regulation. This includes our public lands. The gas industry enjoys exemptions from parts of seven major environmental statutes and reporting programs, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.
In Europe, the laws and issues are different, but we can learn about the dangers of fracking from the unique experiences of other countries.
In Germany, many brewers have warned Chancellor Angela Merkel that fracking could damage the country’s beer industry. The Brauer-Bund beer association is concerned that fracking could pollute water that’s used in the brewing process, breaking the reinheitsgebot, the 500-year-old industry rule that beer must be produced using only malt, hops, and pure water.
Germany’s annual Oktoberfest in Munich, the largest folk festival in the world, which attracts 7 million visitors from around the world, could be threatened if Germany starts fracking. "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," said a Brauer-Bund spokesman. "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," he added.
As the largest producer of beer in Europe and the third-largest per-capita consumer after the Czech Republic and Austria, it’s no wonder that Germany is concerned about this industry. The country is home to more than 1,300 breweries producing about 5,000 varieties of beer, enough for someone to try a new beer every day for 13 and a half years!