Will A Lizard Stop West Texas Oil?
Species: After the harm done by the spotted owl and delta smelt, the listing of a tiny reptile as endangered may be the latest salvo in the war on domestic energy.
As Yogi Berra would say, it's deja vu all over again. If the dunes sagebrush lizard is listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an endangered species, another key part of the American economy will fall prey to the eco-extremist mantra that every little critter's well-being trumps that of the American people and economy.
Last December, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the lizard, a three-inch-long reptile native to the American Southwest, "faces immediate and significant threats due to oil and gas activities and herbicide treatments" and initiated the process to get it listed under the Endangered Species Act.
In 2002, the Center for Biological Diversity first petitioned to have the lizard, originally considered a subspecies of the common sagebrush lizard, listed as endangered. The Bush administration delayed consideration for six years. Last year, the Obama administration put it back on the fast track.
And why not? This is an administration that has ignored a judge's order to remove restrictions on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and designated vast areas in and off Alaska as protected habitat for the caribou and the polar bears, species whose only problem is one of overpopulation.
As director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Steven Chu, Obama's secretary of energy, expressed a fondness for high European gas prices as a means of reducing consumption of fossil fuels. In a September 2008 newspaper interview, he said: "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." Gas prices in Europe then averaged about $8 a gallon.
As gas prices here soar toward $5 a gallon, Chu's friends at the Interior Department may help him and President Obama get the rest of the way toward their goal. If the dunes sagebrush lizard, now considered a separate species, is granted endangered status, oil and gas production in the Permian Basin in New Mexico and Texas may have to be shut down.
When Obama recently addressed the current energy crisis, he told Americans not to worry: "We've been down this road before." But we should worry — and for that very reason. We've seen the spotted owl kill logging and create ghost towns in the Northwest. The ESA's listing of the delta smelt created 40% unemployment in California's San Joaquin Valley and turned America's food basket into a dust bowl.
The Department of Energy says the Permian Basin has a quarter of the nation's proven reserves and 20% of the nation's daily production comes from there. It has a quarter of the nation's active oil and gas wells and is home to 21% of the rigs actively drilling in the U.S.
Gulf oil production is expected to be down 20% in 2011, meaning the loss of 375,000 jobs. But that's a drop in the barrel compared with the loss of production and jobs if America's biggest oilfield is shut down to make a lizard's life more comfortable.
So the day when you pump Secretary Chu's expensive gas, it won't be the fault of those big bad oil companies charged by President Obama with conspiring to boost oil prices by restricting supply. It'll be the administration restricting supply as part of its plan to make domestic energy prices "necessarily skyrocket" so that green energy looks more attractive and necessary.