Fracking Will Kill Your Beer

“Yeah, I’ll have a cold, frothy pint of hydrochloric acid.”  You’re not likely to hear this at the neighborhood bar, and beer and wine makers are aiming to keep it that way.

The rise in fracking operations worldwide in recent years has sounded alarms in the beer and wine making industries, as business owners are fearful of what fracking chemicals could do to their water supply. Their concern is centered on what would happen to their companies if toxic chemicals are released into the groundwater. With most energy companies holding their cards close to their vest and not divulging trade secrets, their fear is substantiated.

Germans Take Their Beer Very Seriously

An article from The Guardian sheds light on recent concerns by German beer makers about the effects that fracking could have on their industry. In 2011, ExxonMobil made a horizontal test drill into shale rock in the German town of Lünne, not far from the family brewing business of Friederike Borchert. The proximity to the test site doesn’t sit well with her. “For brewers, fracking could spell the end of our existence.” With Exxon’s recent well-publicized oil spills, concern for safety in the company’s fracking practices is well-founded.

With natural gas now playing a bigger role in Germany’s energy supply, citizens see a need to have tight regulations to keep the environment safe. Brewers associations in Germany have been successfully lobbying Barbara Hendricks, environment minister, to help update laws that protect water supplies in the brewers’ wells and private mineral springs. A department spokesperson stated that Hendricks’ group intended to “considerably tighten” fracking legislation.

 New York Vintners Are Cautious, Too

With a decision on fracking in New York yet to be finalized, both fracking opponents and proponents are ramping up their efforts to sway the final result. Wine makers in the state are concerned that their businesses would be adversely affected if the practice were allowed.

Peter Saltonstall and Doug Hazlitt, owners of King Ferry Winery and Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, respectively, recently wrote an opinion piece for Syracuse.com which stated their desire to keep fracking out of New York State. They cited the wine industry’s rebuttals, such as yearly contributions of $4.8 billion to the state, 25,000 full-time jobs, and over $408 million in taxes.

Concerned with a sustainable supply of clean water to operate their businesses efficiently, the authors explain,

Fracking would jeopardize the safety of the water we rely on for producing our wine – the same water relied upon by the beer industry and other farm-based beverage industries.

States have confirmed water contamination resulting from fracking, and recent scientific studies by three major American universities – from three different states that permit fracking – substantiate those dangers to water supplies.

That simply doesn’t mix with brewing beer, producing wine or other beverages.

They make a solid case for studying the effects of water contamination, and pose a valid question about why Governor Cuomo would consider jeopardizing the benefits of this industry by allowing it.

Do brewers and wine makers have a case?

Energy companies argue that their chemicals are proprietary and harmless when kept under tight controls. Fracking opponents, and people like brewers and vintners, argue that the state is moving in the right direction and the allowance of fracking wouldn’t be worth the cost to businesses and existing industries in New York.

You might be an advocate of cheap energy and job creation, but unless you want extra bubbles in your beer or a sour taste in your wine, you might want to consider what these groups are saying.


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