Sam Hall, director of the Conservative Environment Network, said: 'We will need oil and gas for the next few decades. 'It is economically sensible to seek a fair transition, rather than a cliff edge, away from homegrown fossil fuel production.
'But regardless of Government policy, it will not be possible to achieve energy security from North Sea oil and gas, where reserves are now depleted and expensive to extract.'
'Oil and gas is one of the least popular parts of the Government's energy policy.
'A major political focus on new exploration could undermine voters' perception of the Conservatives' commitment to climate action before the general election.
'It could also overshadow efforts to promote the party's positive record on renewables which is not widely known and significantly more popular.'