The head of the UK's conventional oil and gas industry association last night called on MPs to support development of onshore fracking, warning that thousands of jobs are at risk.
The alarm call was sounded by Malcolm Webb, Chief Executive, Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) ahead of today's third and final reading of the Infrastructure Bill at Westminster.
Webb said: "This will be a crucial milestone on the way to securing the future of the UK's valuable offshore oil and gas industry along with the hundreds of thousands of high skilled jobs, billions of pounds of investment and advanced technology it supports.
"The passing of the Infrastructure Bill will enshrine in law the objective of Maximising Economic Recovery – a key recommendation of Sir Ian Wood's review of the North Sea energy industry – which enjoys consensus across the political spectrum.
"There is a danger now that the Bill could be derailed by an unfortunate amendment conflating misguided views about the extraction of onshore unconventional oil and gas with ill-informed prejudice against the principles of maximising economic recovery of oil and gas reserves in the North Sea.
"Next month marks a year since the publication of Sir Ian Wood's report on the UKCS, the blueprint for maximising economic recovery of the North Sea's oil and gas which was endorsed unanimously by industry and across the political sphere.
"The North Sea currently faces numerous challenges, including the recent slump in oil prices, so implementation of the Wood Report's recommendations is needed more than ever. The passing of the Infrastructure Bill, including the MERUK initiative, is a crucial ingredient.
"If this amendment is successful the future of the North Sea will be put into serious jeopardy, placing at risk our indigenous energy supply and leaving us more reliant on imports.
"Hundreds of thousands of UK jobs and the country's place as a global leader in offshore engineering and technology would then also be in peril.
"I therefore urge MPs from all parties to preserve the cross-party support that the Wood Report has so far enjoyed and to ensure that the Infrastructure Bill is approved later today."
UKOOG, the representative body for the onshore oil and gas sector, notes thereport and recommendations of the Environmental Audit Committee and fundamentally disagrees with its key conclusion, a call for a moratorium on "fracking".
Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of UKOOG, said: "This rushed report ignores the fact that gas is not just a source of electricity but has a major impact on everyday life with respect to products we use, to heat our homes, the cooking we do and the jobs it sustains in industry.
"The report also ignores most of the evidence of a properly regulated and safe industry in the UK and that gas and renewables work together.
"Calling for a moratorium achieves only one thing – increasing the levels of gas coming from outside the UK at a substantially higher environmental cost and with significant economic consequences.
"The Government has already announced that the next shale gas sites will not only be regulated by the four different regulators in line with 17 EU directives, requiring up to eight environmental permits per site, but also will be overseen by independent academics. No evidence exists of a failure in the current multi-regulated arrangements."
A number of independent reviews in the UK – including those from the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering, Public Health England, Professor MacKay and Dr Stone, Water UK, and the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management – have concluded that environmental and health risks from shale production are low in a properly regulated industry.
Cronin added: "Even the Environmental Audit Committee's report accepts this; for example:
Para 30:"The evidence from a range of government bodies and independent scientific institutions is generally in agreement fracking can proceed in the UK safely and without harm to the environment provided proper environmental safeguards are introduced and adhered to"
Para 73: "We share the confidence some of our academic witnesses had in the regulators' capability to build a robust and effective regulatory system to cover fracking" (Paragraph 73).
Para 78 : "Many of our witnesses acknowledged that the existing UK conventional onshore industry has a generally safe history with over 200 producing wells and no pollution incidents from well design"