A leading fracking company has warned that the industry will grind to a halt in Britain unless the Government allows it to drill under people's property without permission.
Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan told The Times it would be impractical to negotiate access with every landowner where it wants to use the controversial pressure mining technique.
David Cameron and George Osborne have hailed the potential benefits of fracking to the UK, and last week the coalition launched a consultation on whether to make the legal change the firms are seeking.
However, the proposals are encountering strong resistance from environmental groups and residents in areas where there are large shale gas reserves.
Mr Egan said the present requirement to seek landowners' permission was "ridiculous".
Asked what would happen if the attempt to change the law failed, he said: "I don't think the industry will go ahead in the UK."
He added: "If you say to Crossrail (the rail link being built under London) 'Yes, you can go ahead but you will have to negotiate with every single householder on the route', they would not even look at it. Same thing here."
Mr Egan insisted landowners would be unaffected by drilling taking place a mile below their property.
He admitted that companies still had more work to do to win over sceptics - but argued that exploratory wells needed to be drilled to show the technique is safe.
"It's a Catch-22. You have to demonstrate they're safe before you can get public opinion to support you," he said.
Greenpeace campaigner Simon Clydesdale dismissed Cuadrilla's warning over the industry's future as a "ransom note".
"Ministers are bending over backwards and cutting corners to satisfy the fracking lobby's every wish," he said. "Paying off the fracking industry's ransom note in this way will come at a huge political cost for coalition MPs who are backing an increasingly unpopular industry offering no guarantees of ever being able to deliver."