The future of fracking in Europe’s biggest economy remains uncertain after government plans for regulation were put on hold.
The technology, which involves pumping water and chemicals at high pressure into the ground, has come in for criticism by environmentalists, who warn of potential seismic effects and water pollution. Political opinion is also split on whether to embrace it as a path to cheaper energy or not.
Angela Merkel's centre-right government had drawn up legislation outlining the conditions for exploration and imposing restrictions on where drilling would be allowed, but that has now been put on hold until after election in September 2013.
"The fracking law has failed," Horst Meierhofer, a member of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) who share power with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, told Reuters. Senior conservatives also confirmed the plans had been suspended.
The law was unlikely to have passed as opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens strongly object to it, and have the power to block it in the upper house of parliament.
Merkel, riding high in the polls, has a good chance of being elected for her third term in September’s poll, but it is unclear what sort of a coalition she may be able to form. It is possible she will have to join forces with parties who are currently set against the fracking proposals.