Only an extreme optimist would bet on decarbonisation of the UK energy sector within the next 60 years, given the level of objection to any new energy project, whether solar, biomass, wind, nuclear or unconventional gas.

Renewables, mainly wind, account only for a constantly varying seven to 12 per cent of UK electricity production, more than half a century after the first wind turbine was connected to the grid in Orkney. This is why those with even a shred of credibility on macro-economic issues and energy policy promote a balanced energy mix that includes renewables and hydrocarbons sourced domestically and via imports.

While the drive towards renewables is the right thing to do, we have to be realistic about the time frames for their development and manage climate change issues, lifestyle expectations and energy policy in the interim. This leads most people towards a compromise position.

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has announced a moratorium on planning consent for onshore unconventional oil and gas projects. The Scottish Government wants to hold a public health impact assessment and a full public inquiry before deciding on a final position, particularly with regard to fracking. The green movement will hail this as a victory but there has been a definite schism in the anti-fracking movement over recent months as the weight of scientific evidence has moved to support the unconventional hydrocarbons industry.

Given the prominence of Friends of the Earth in the shale gas debate it often comes as a nasty surprise to local anti-fracking groups that most green groups do actually support drilling and fracking for deep geothermal projects. Only yesterday, the famous Eden Project in Cornwall announced such a project.

However the bigger question is this: why is the green movement against natural gas development anyway? Opposition to unconventional gas development, coupled with increasing reliance on expensive imports, via liquefied natural gas (LNG) or pipelines from Russia, has simply resulted in Europe becoming a dumping ground for cheap coal, displaced from its usual destination of US power stations due to the emergence of shale gas.

The proportion of coal in our electricity generating mix is increasing year-on-year as gas-fired generation is priced out of the market. This would appear to be the worst possible outcome in terms of climate change and public health.

As part of a coherent and joined-up energy policy, production of domestic natural gas, whether conventional or unconventional, and syngas from underground coal gasification (UCG), can be used to reverse this trend of reliance on imports for petrochemical feedstock and to displace coal-fired electricity generation.

Additionally, natural gas or syngas can be converted into clean-burning LPG or synthetic diesel, which produces 30-50 per cent fewer emissions than conventional diesel fuels. The displacement of coal and conventional diesel would result in lower CO2 emissions and significantly reduce sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions which contribute to 50-60,000 premature deaths each year in the UK. What's not to like?

So, back to compromise. It is not entirely clear what the additional period of evidence gathering is going to achieve. The Scottish Government's Independent Expert Scientific Panel Report on Unconventional Gas and Oil, which was supposed to form the evidence base for future policy, was published only last year and came to the conclusion there were no unmanageable impacts associated with the process. Why should anyone think repeating the process again is going to result in a different answer?

While the delay is regrettable, there is no doubt in my mind that the outcome will be the same, so let's have the consultations and assessments announced by the Scottish Government yesterday. But once they are complete, if the evidence suggests onshore unconventional coal and gas extraction is worth pursuing, then let's do just that. This will allow us to manage a transition to a lower-carbon future, and secure a more abundant supply of cleaner gas delivered by a well-regulated local industry that provides jobs and pays tax in the UK.