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Beer Earth Technology

German Brewers Warn Fracking Could Hurt Beer 325

Posted by samzenpus
from the does-this-taste-funny-to-you? dept.
Taco Cowboy writes "Those of you who like free beer, watch out! The practice of fracking for shale gas may ruin the beer you drink. Under the 'Reinheitsgebot,' or German purity law, brewers have to produce beer using only malt, hops, yeast and water. 'The water has to be pure and more than half [of] 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. The Brauer-Bund beer association is worried that fracking for shale gas, which involves pumping water and chemicals at high pressure into the ground, could pollute water used for brewing and break a 500-year-old industry rule on water purity."
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German Brewers Warn Fracking Could Hurt Beer

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  • by aliquis (678370) <dospam@gmail.com> on Monday May 27, 2013 @08:16AM (#43832053) Homepage

    "it sounded like such a good idea!" ..

  • Uebersetzungsfehler? (Score:5, Informative)

    by sqrt(2) (786011) on Monday May 27, 2013 @08:19AM (#43832073) Journal

    The Reinheitsgebot stipulates beer have only THREE ingredients: water, barley and hops. The purity law dates to 1516. Yeast wouldn't be discovered until 1680 and even then wasn't recognized as a living organism.

    • by slackware 3.6 (2524328) on Monday May 27, 2013 @08:29AM (#43832141)
      They ammended the Reinheitsgebot to allow the use of cultured yeast.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 27, 2013 @08:46AM (#43832225)
        Problem solved then! They can simply amend it again to include the cocktail of chemicals from the fracking.
        • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Monday May 27, 2013 @09:07AM (#43832375)

          Problem solved then! They can simply amend it again to include the cocktail of chemicals from the fracking.

          Benzene adds a delightful "bite" to an otherwise dull lager.

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        if that is the law then all beer is in violation. Unless the water is 100% pure, which is not what you will get from any well on the planet it is violation. The law is actually impossible to meet because one speck of dust means the beer is illegal.
         

  • by EzInKy (115248) on Monday May 27, 2013 @08:22AM (#43832087)
    • Don't get too excited. It was mostly what the British called "short beer". It was pretty watery and had just enough alcohol to kill much of the bacteria. Otherwise people couldn't have afforded it, and would have been too drunk all the time to brew any more. You probably wouldn't touch the stuff.
      • by EzInKy (115248)

        Was the British beer better than the Egyptian beer than preceded by a few millinea? In both cases the goal was to produce a product that didn't kill consumers. Those who were to drunk to brew and too poor to buy would logically have been bred out of the gene pool.

      • by c0lo (1497653) on Monday May 27, 2013 @08:52AM (#43832269)

        It was pretty watery and had just enough alcohol to kill much of the bacteria. ... You probably wouldn't touch the stuff.

        I still can't believe Budweiser as that old.

      • by hcpxvi (773888) on Monday May 27, 2013 @09:04AM (#43832359)
        It was mostly what the British called "short beer". It was pretty watery and had just enough alcohol to kill much of the bacteria.
        Nearly. ISTR it was called "small beer" not "short beer". Even modern beer doesn't contain enough alcohol to kill bacteria; the important thing is that to make beer you had to boil it, which kills off any waterborne bacteria that were in your water supply. So up until the advent of treated water supplies you might well get cholera or dysentry from your water supply, but not from your beer.
        • it was called "small beer" not "short beer"

          Small, short, I just speak American.

          Even modern beer doesn't contain enough alcohol to kill bacteria; the important thing is that to make beer you had to boil it

          Interesting. I wondered why the small alcohol content worked (maybe it helped a little?). I also wondered why they didn't just boil water, whether it was ignorance or just a preference for beer instead of water (actually I still don't know). I'm also obviously no brewer, as I didn't know you had to boil water to make beer.

          • by ZX3 Junglist (643835) <[ZX3Junglist] [at] [hotmail.com]> on Monday May 27, 2013 @10:30AM (#43832871)

            it was called "small beer" not "short beer"

            Small, short, I just speak American.

            Even modern beer doesn't contain enough alcohol to kill bacteria; the important thing is that to make beer you had to boil it

            Interesting. I wondered why the small alcohol content worked (maybe it helped a little?). I also wondered why they didn't just boil water, whether it was ignorance or just a preference for beer instead of water (actually I still don't know). I'm also obviously no brewer, as I didn't know you had to boil water to make beer.

            I am a brewer, so what you'd learn is that while the small amount of alcohol helps to stem biological activity, there are two parts to ensure bacteria doesn't contaminate the end product - first, that the product is boiled is the true sanitation, but secondly during primary fermentation the active yeast strains compete with bacteria and win (or else it wouldn't be tasty). The fact that beer uses hops is another aid to the effort. The acids in the hop plant have effects that prevent spoilage, such as antibiotic and bacteriostatic qualities against gram-positive bacteria strains, and it seems to fend of molds as well. This way before refrigeration you could cask the beer in the fall/winter/early spring and then put it into a basement or as the germans did, bunkers by river beds, to drink it throughout the summer. Of course, there are exceptions such as belgian sours that purposely utilize brettanomyces, pediococcus, or lactobacillus to introduce the characteristic tang, but that's a little off topic and an entirely different conversation. -ZX

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Monday May 27, 2013 @08:24AM (#43832109)

    The real pollution problem with fracking for gas isn't the fact that it's fracking as opposed to more traditional extraction techniques, but that the drilling sites are not well monitored and even existing regulations are not well enforced. In other words, the same crap can happen with conventional drilling. It's also ridiculous that thanks to Dick Cheney, companies don't have to tell the EPA or state environmental departments what the ingredients of their fracking fluids are. At least that's the situation here in the US - as an American I can't speak to the German situation so well. Hopefully they handle it better.

    I'm afraid that this is yet another industry that'll screw itself through short term greed, just as lax safety at nuke plants has trashed that industry.

    • by EzInKy (115248)

      All a business is concerned about is profit, and rightly so! If a company doesn't have more money today than it yesterday it can't spend more money today than it did yesterday. Further, if it has less today than it did yesterday it can't spend any without causing risk to those who depend on it making more. Other than investing money only in and accepting the risk for doing so I don't know what else to suggest.

      • All a business is concerned about is profit, and rightly so!

        Gewinn über alles? (anyone who actually speaks German feel free to correct).

        Yes, profit is what I expect for-profit business to be mainly concerned with (hence the term "for-profit"). It makes a great economic tool, but we also introduce something called "regulation" to deal with externalities like pollution. In some cases intelligently run businesses even support that regulation because they realize that otherwise there may be a public backlash that will destroy their business.

    • by Teun (17872)
      Indeed, the Cheney laws are totally unthinkable in Germany or any other N/W European country.

      The drilling and production of oil and gas is tightly regulated and monitored.

      • the Cheney laws are totally unthinkable in Germany or any other N/W European country

        Hopefully you're right. Not so long ago they were unthinkable in the US.

        • by Teun (17872)
          Many European countries have coalition governments, something I can warmly recommend.
  • by Teun (17872) on Monday May 27, 2013 @08:48AM (#43832243) Homepage
    Here in Europe a whole industry seems to have sprung up of clueless "experts" showing local populations the well known scare-video's from YouTube about the terrible things that happen when you frack.

    I've myself gone to such meetings and it's quite astonishing the kind of utter rubbish that's being peddled as 'fact'.
    When I get up and ask questions the organisers get nervous and the press interested :)
    But these agitators seem to get away with it, at least for now.

    As an example in my town they showed this slide [blogspot.com] that 'proves' how water is affected.
    The scale is so ridiculous I can't imagine why we haven't produced this shallow gas a century ago.

    Fact is the shale in my region sits below 3500 m (~10,000ft.)
    Above it are huge salt layers that cap the Slochteren formation, the largest but 3/4 depleted on-shore gas field in Europe.
    Would there be any leaks from the frack they'd logically end up in this reservoir.

    A lady from the public jumped up and cried "Where should we go once our water is polluted", the organisers agreed with her, this crime should be stopped!
    In the mean time they 'forget' to mention polluted water is produced at every conventional oil- and gas field, something that in this part of Europe has never been an issue.
    But with shale gas it should be?

    Thanks Cheney/Bush for fucking up a good idea with irresponsible legislation.

    • Fact is the shale in my region sits below 3500 m (~10,000ft.) Above it are huge salt layers that cap the Slochteren formation, the largest but 3/4 depleted on-shore gas field in Europe. Would there be any leaks from the frack they'd logically end up in this reservoir.

      You're assuming that the contamination comes from the actual fracking itself. It usually comes from things like improperly sealed bore holes. Is it your contention that fracking (or any natural gas drilling) can't contaminate water supplies? Do you think everyone in the US reporting it is under a delusion and that we should just trust the gas industry?

      • by Teun (17872)
        The problem in the US is a lack of regulation, Cheney took his chance and now the oil companies don't have to worry for legal shit due to stupid or irresponsible actions.

        An irresponsible action can be over-fracking a small shale layer and thus damaging formations that should retain the gas but are now leaking and allowing the gas to migrate up.
        Responsible action on behalf of regulator and oil company would exclude such very shallow shales from getting an exploration and production licence.

        • The problem in the US is a lack of regulation

          I agree, but unless you specifically say otherwise, talking about fracking as though it can't cause contamination because the actual fracking is at great depths misleads people into thinking that the whole operation can't cause contamination.

      • You shouldn't trust the gas industry. You need sound regulation and enforcement.

        But the scare tactics and yes outright lies put forth by the opponents of fracking are just as bad.

        The fact is that there are no confirmed reports of fracking contaminating drinking water.

        The secondary operations associated with fracking have caused problems and there is a definite need to improve these operations.

        • The fact is that there are no confirmed reports of fracking contaminating drinking water.

          The actual fracking, no, but there are cases of the overall operations causing serious contamination.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Monday May 27, 2013 @09:05AM (#43832363)

    These are the same people who are now building new coal burning plants because they shut down their nuclear power industry. And the coal they are burning is low quality crap lignite. In some countries in Europe coal consumption is increasing 50% per year.

    Some have called it a new golden age of coal in Europe:

    http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21569039-europes-energy-policy-delivers-worst-all-possible-worlds-unwelcome-renaissance [economist.com]

    Now of course they are going to turn their back on much cleaner natural gas because they are afraid that they can't write effective regs for shale gas production?

    MOAR COAL!!!

    Europe's environmental policy is flat out nuts.

    • by Teun (17872)
      You are absolutely correct there's a renaissance of coal fired power plants.

      The reason being US coal has due to the abundance of shale gas gotten so cheap it is now flooding the world market and Europe is part of it.
      Now don't worry too much, it won't be long and a nice CO2 levy will be slapped on to these plants returning them to the inefficient dinosaurs they are.
      Specifically Germany is very much on it's way to a renewable energy economy, another reason they might not be so terrible interested in shale

      • US gas production is also causing world gas prices to fall. Europe of course isn't taking advantage of this because their policies give coal plants overly generous carbon allowances.

        Dumb dumb dumb.

    • These are the same people who are now building new coal burning plants because they shut down their nuclear power industry. And the coal they are burning is low quality crap lignite.

      How long do you think planning and getting approval from authorities for any kind of power plant takes? In Germany: decades. So, if you buy into the propaganda, that coal power plants are built because of the Fukisima-caused nuclear exit strategy, all I can say is: congratulations! You have been fooled the way the lobbyists wan

  • by johnny cashed (590023) on Monday May 27, 2013 @09:27AM (#43832489) Homepage
    What about the water? I know it is the national drink in Germany, but they do drink water too, correct?
  • I didn't read the summary or the TFA, but everyone knows it's the other way around: consumption of too much beer can ruin fracking. While the consumption of some beer may very well increase desire, reduce inhibitions and can make someone undesirable look very frackable indeed (google "beer goggles"), it is well documented that having too much beer reduces activity and performance and can very much ruin a good frack. In the extreme, having way too much beer will just make you pass out in the middle of frac

  • by jklovanc (1603149) on Monday May 27, 2013 @03:14PM (#43834609)

    All fracking is not the same.

    Bad fracking
    1. Shallow wells
    2. permeable layers between fracked shale and aquifer
    3. Poor handling of fracking chemicals

    Good fracking
    1. Deep wells
    2. Impermeable layer between shale and aquifer
    3. Close monitoring of site and disposal of chemicals.

    By the way, a similar thing has bee done for decades in oil fields [wikipedia.org] where hot water is injected down one well to increase production on others. The difference with fracking is the chemicals used to create and hold open the cracks so the natural gas can flow.

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