The Government has given the green light for "fracking" for shale gas to resume in the UK.
Moves by gas company Cuadrilla to exploit the unconventional gas in Lancashire were put on hold 18 months ago after fracking, which uses high-pressure liquid to split rock and extract gas, caused two small earthquakes.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey has said that fracking could resume in the UK, subject to new controls which aim to reduce the risk of seismic activity.
Mr Davey said shale gas represented a promising new potential energy resource for the UK, although it was not yet known what contribution it could make to the energy mix, jobs and the economy.
He insisted that exploiting shale gas in this country would not undermine efforts to cut emissions to tackle climate change. And he said that, as gas would be needed in coming decades for heating, cooking and electricity, there were advantages in developing domestic supplies.
The Treasury has already signalled its support for the budding industry, proposing tax relief for shale gas, and unveiling a gas generation strategy which potentially paves the way for a new "dash for gas".
But environmentalists warn that a continued reliance on gas would prevent the UK meeting targets to cut emissions and tackle climate change, and that shale has no place in the move to a low-carbon economy. Concerns have also been raised, following widespread exploitation of shale resources in the US, that it can cause local environmental problems including polluting water supplies and damaging development.
Mr Davey said: "Shale gas represents a promising new potential energy resource for the UK. It could contribute significantly to our energy security, reducing our reliance on imported gas, as we move to a low-carbon economy. It is essential that its development should not come at the expense of local communities or the environment. Fracking must be safe and the public must be confident that it is safe."
Greenpeace energy campaigner Leila Deen said: "George Osborne's dream of building Dallas in Lancashire is dangerous fantasy. He is not JR Ewing and this is not the US. Energy analysts agree the UK cannot replicate the American experience of fracking, and that shale gas will do little or nothing to lower bills. Pinning the UK's energy hopes on an unsubstantiated, polluting fuel is a massive gamble and consumers and the climate will end up paying the price."
Asked if prices would fall, energy minister John Hayes told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "I wouldn't make those predictions but it is fair to say that in America prices per unit have gone from something like 12 dollars to three to four dollars. Now we don't know the scale in Britain. It's a very different topography, different geology, different geography, but it would be very odd if we didn't explore this possibility, wouldn't it?"