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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mailbag: Beer vs Fracking

BEER VS FRACKING Germany’s Reinheitsgebot, a 500-year old beer purity law, forces brewers to utilize only 4 ingredients in the beer-making process: hops, malt, yeast, and water. One of these ingredients, water, may be threatened in Germany due to the recent acceleration of the hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) industry, which German brewers say could leak chemicals into their private wells, leading to imperfections in their valued product. The Deutschen Brauer-Bund (Association of German Breweries) has urged further research and improved methods before the government’s legislation on fracking is passed. Two large German brewers, Bitburger and Anheuser Busch have shown their distaste for fracking as well, providing a powerful opponent to Angela Merkel’s pro-fracking stance. Other nations have also shown their opposition to the controversial method of oil/natural gas retrieval where water, sand, and various chemicals are pumped into the ground to break up shale rock. The United Kingdom temporarily banned fracking after drilling practices were connected to a series of earthquakes. Bulgaria and France completely outlawed the practice, and several other moratoriums have occurred in nations such as Argentina, South Africa, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Australia. In the U.S., Vermont was the first state to ban fracking on May 17th, 2012. Here in Pennsylvania, where there are currently over 110 licensed breweries, beer makers could be a factor in fracking legislation as well. We have many microbreweries and even have America’s oldest brewing company, Yuengling. With the beer history and culture that our state has, our groundwater is an asset that we should protect. A study at Duke University (http://biology.duke.edu/jackson/pnas2011.pdf) has shown that water wells in active fracking areas have, on average, 17 times the amount of methane as water wells in non-active areas. This is just one of the possible threats of fracking, others of which involve the improper storage and disposal of fracking water waste which could release various chemicals into the ground. Illegal dumping into streams, rivers, and abandoned coal mines has occurred in some cases as well. Info: Carlana Rhoten (412) 363-7472 rhotenassociates@gmail.com

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