Monday, 12. June 2017

Public Perception of Fracking

Copyright: Shutterstock/Calin Tatu

Almost every major project in recent years has triggered social rejection and subsequent violent protests. Not only very expensive large-scale construction measures such as the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Stuttgart 21, and the new Berlin Airport lead to great opposition in the population. The construction of wind turbines, for example, and power lines also encounters some fierce local opposition and protests. Another large project that has to contend with large problems gaining acceptance in Germany is fracking.

In a study recently accepted for publication, doctoral candidate Joséphine Süptitz, together with Professor Dr. Christian Schlereth, Chair of Digital Marketing at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, addressed the low level of acceptance of fracking in Germany. The question they investigated was whether the opposition is actually a discussion carried on in ideological terms by a few representatives of opinion, or whether in fact the population is opposed to the topic. Furthermore, they developed a method that made the effect of acceptance-enhancing measures quantifiable.

There are six determinants of acceptance where fracking is concerned: water safety, earthquake risk, increased noise and traffic, harm to nature and the countryside, the approvals body involved and an uneven distribution of costs and benefits. The results of the study confirm a predominantly negative attitude on the part of the population; at the same time, however, they demonstrate that offering appropriate measures can increase the acceptance of fracking to up to 57 percent.

“Surprising is that direct compensation of nearby residents – through partial assumption of energy costs, for instance – was perceived negatively,” explains Joséphine Süptitz, adding: “We believe this is equated with an immoral bribery attempt. Indirect financial compensation for the community, on the other hand, has a positive effect on acceptance, such as through increased tax revenues.” 

The study will appear in an upcoming issue of the renowned Schmalenbachs Zeitschrift für betriebswirtschaftliche Forschung. Süptitz already received the GEE Award of the Energy Forum in Berlin in 2014 for her study.


What is fracking?

Fracking, actually “hydraulic fracturing,” is a process used to extract natural gas and oil from so-called unconventional deposits. With this technology, a mixture of sand, water and chemicals is injected at high pressure between the deep layers of rock, tapping the diffuse deposits of gas or oil stored in these so-called “unconventional deposits.” In the United States, large-scale development of these deposits has already taken place, making United States now one of the world’s major oil producers. Fracking there is not only a high economic priority, but has also led to a better CO2balance sheet. What is problematic, however, is that fracking is suspected of promoting earthquakes, and the chemicals of contaminating drinking water. Other environmental risks have proven nearly impossible to assess to date. For commercial reasons, the German federal government decided in June 2016 to prohibit fracking, initially for a period of five years. The Bundestag is scheduled to revisit the issue in 2021.

Joséphine Süptitz and Professor Dr. Christian Schlereth, Chair of Digital Marketing