The German government made clear on Thursday that new rules it is preparing on the controversial technique of fracking for gas would set tough environmental standards that will all but rule out the widespread exploration of shale gas.
News on Wednesday that Economy and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel is working on new guidelines for fracking had raised hopes that Germany was opening the door to shale gas extraction despite concerns about its environmental impact.
However, while the new rules will allow a resumption of fracking for deep-lying, or "tight" gas after a two-year moratorium, Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said they would stop well short of giving a green light to shale gas.
"I think fracking is not only a wrong but also an overrated solution to the energy question," Hendricks told the Ruhr Nachrichten newspaper. "Drinking water and health are the absolute priority."
Hendricks, who is jointly responsible for legislation on fracking with Gabriel, said she expected the government to present a draft law on fracking this year.
"According to what was agreed in the coalition deal, unconventional fracking using toxic substances, in particular for shale gas, will be banned," said Hendricks.