Back in February, just a few days after the Scottish Government announced a moratorium on fracking, the Sunday Herald ran a front page story highlighting the technology it missed out: underground coal gasification.

A plan to set fire to coal under the Firth of Forth and the Solway Firth to tap the resulting gas looked at least as risky as fracking. Many people were asking why it hadn’t been included in the moratorium.

We now know that coal gasification was deliberately excluded because ministers – or some of them at least – had been convinced of its potential economic benefits by its main promoter, the veteran oil entrepreneur, Algy Cluff.

It took until October, encouraged by a groundswell of protest from SNP activists, MSPs and MPs, for the Scottish Government to change its mind. Coal gasification was, after all, going to be subject to a moratorium while its impact was assessed.

Given our revelations today regarding the risks of underground coal gasification, that seems only sensible. Draft reports by the government's green watchdog, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), outline a series of potential disasters that could befall the process, including pollution, earthquakes, underground explosions, and uncontrollable fires.

Sepa’s frightening list of potential risks is a necessary part of the agency’s work in gearing up to regulate the technology. Of course it doesn’t mean that toxins are inevitably going to leak into drinking water, or explosions damage buildings. But the range and seriousness of the possible problems makes it right to pause. If some of the dangers are “unknowable”, how can it be right to go ahead? That is basic logic.

Crucially, if extracting coal gas from under the sea creates more climate pollution than natural gas, is it responsible to even begin? As the world wrestles with how to slow global warming at the summit in Paris, does Scotland really want to be opening up a new fossil fuel frontier?

The key to ensuring any new technology is safe lies in tough, well-resourced independent regulation. Perhaps the most worrying suggestion to emerge from Sepa’s reports is that – at the moment – there is no such thing.

To proceed with underground coal gasification without robust regulation would be foolhardy. To set fire to coal seams deep under the ground when we’re not sure if we could extinguish the inferno is inviting disaster.

Along with fracking, Scottish Ministers must think long and hard about the wisdom of underground coal gasification. If any of the disaster scenarios turn out to be realistic possibilities - or the impact on the climate looks to be significant - they should just say no.