Yes, a 3 inch lizard can collapse the Texas oil industry.

There’s a new bad guy in town in West Texas.  He’s called the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard.  He’s actually kind of cute, as lizards go.  He’s about three inches long, a nice tan color, and has a vaguely Winston Churchill-esque expression.  He seems harmless enough, but he comes packing a huge, powerful weapon:  the federal government.

It turns out that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is contemplating putting this little lizard on the endangered species list, not because he’s being hunted, but because his habitat might be threatened.  And what is his habitat:  Oil country.  Not just oil, but cattle and other agriculture too.  If the government goes forward with this plan, everything in little lizard’s neighborhood comes to a grinding halt:

“We are very concerned about the Fish and Wildlife Service listing,” said Ben Shepperd, president of the PBPA, noting the service also has proposed listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken next year. “The wolf at the door is the lizard; we’re concerned listing it would shut down drilling activity for a minimum of two years and as many as five years while the service determines what habitat is needed for the lizard. That means no drilling, no seismic surveys, no roads built, no electric lines.”

The move would impact activity in Andrews, Crane, Gaines, Ward and Winkler counties in Texas and Chaves, Eddy, Lea and Roosevelt counties in New Mexico.

Not only would the move impact oil and gas operations but agriculture, Shepperd noted, shutting down agricultural activities like grazing and farming — “anything that disturbs the habitat.” While the industry is perfectly willing to undertake conservation measures to protect the lizard’s habitat, he said, naming it an endangered species “would shut down activity and be devastating not only to Permian Basin economies but to the national economy. We are the one bright spot month after month; in our economic turnaround, the main driver is the oil and gas industry.”

As seems to be the case with these government fiats, the government is going off half-cocked:

The concern is, he said, that the Fish and Wildlife Service lacks enough data to conclude that the tiny lizard is endangered and is basing its action on flawed methodology. “They didn’t spend enough time looking for them or the right technique to find them,” he said.

In New Mexico, where the lizard can be found on both private and public lands, Shepperd said a number of companies have entered into voluntary agreements to help conserve the lizard’s habitat, mitigate threats to the lizard and remediate any damage while continuing to operate. He said he wants the same to happen in Texas. The association favors such joint agreements between the federal government and landowners to protect the lizard’s habitat while allowing drilling operations to continue responsibly.

When I ran this story by Don Quixote, he found it interesting, but suggested that it couldn’t happen, because the level of public outrage about shutting down drilling would make the decision suicidal.  I disagree.  Exhibit A is the spotted owl, up in northwestern logging country.  The logging community made a huge uproar, but the spotted owl won.  By 2000, thousands of acres of land that formerly provided wood to Americans and jobs to Oregonians were put out of play.  Much of the land was private property, so there was some serious government taking involved too.  The Clinton government survived.  Oregon continued to vote Democrat.

Exhibit B is the delta smelt, the protection of which has decimated large parts of California’s Central Valley.  The Central Valley used to be America’s bread basket.  If you drove down I-5 from the North Bay to L.A., once you got past the Altamont Pass and before you reached the grapevine, it was farm land and grazing land all the way.  Now, large parts of it look exactly like the Oklahoma dust bowl, circa 1930.  Both the Bush and the Obama government have survived this assault on America’s food supply.  California Democrats, comfortably sequestered in ultra urban Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, didn’t blink as the state’s agriculture infrastructure started to be destroyed.  Food prices have gone up, but they’ve stayed within tolerable levels.

Obama has already positioned himself with a narrative for rising oil prices, and it’s not the fact that he’s shut down Gulf oil drilling, or that he’s refusing to allow new drilling or even investigation into potential future drilling.  Instead, the prices are being driven by evil “speculators.”  Well, he’s right about the speculators.  If I had any market sechel (Yiddish for “smarts”), I’d be one too.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that, with the Middle East roiling with violent upheavals, and with the federal government trying to make drilling illegal, oil prices are going to go up and up and up.  The speculators are simply able to take advantage of the fact that, if demand remains roughly the same, but supplies diminish, prices go up.  Even a socialist president cannot change that reality.

As for the outrage –Americans are all out of outraged.  The Obama administration has attacked America’s economy and security and functionality at every single level.  As my teen says, “Whoa!  Too Much Information.”  Why contemplate the most recent administrative agency attack on America’s way of life, when you can watch American Idol or Oprah or whatever happens to be on ESPN?  As long as the economic and social fabric in your area looks as if it’s holding together, ignore the frays around the edges and the random holes in the middle.

I like animals.  I do not believe that humans can abuse and destroy them at will.  As I often say, we are stewards of this earth and of all its bounty.  But if we wish to survive, Mother Nature (or God, take your pick) mandates that, in any given environment, animals compete for resources.  Sometimes, one animal overdoes the competition, destroying other animals in the region.  Sometimes this is a disaster, as was the case with the protein deficit that led to Mayan cannibalism.  Sometimes, it doesn’t matter at all.  I’m sorry to say that, but it’s true.  The world ecosystem has survived without the wooly mammoth or the dodo.  The answer is balance.

The problem, always, is that government is a sledge hammer, when a ball peen would do.  It’s draconian power makes any situation unbalanced.  The oil men in New Mexico have worked with the Fish and Wildlife Department, and the oil men in Texas will too.  There is the potential for balance there, but that balance is not met by shutting down a whole region.

One can only hope that the Fish & Wildlife Service is playing a game of chicken in West Texas, hoping to bully the oil men into more accommodations than they’re currently willing to make.  But it was no game of chicken in Oregon nor in Central California, so I’ll be convinced that this is a negotiating tactic only when both sides reach an agreement.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

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  • Charles Martel

    I think it’s time for the states to band together into some sort of federation that will resist the central government in Washington.

    Oh, wait, that’s been tried and, apparently, doesn’t work.

  • Danny Lemieux

    It may be that America’s epitaph to a lost civilization will read,  “death by mass suicide in pursuit of fantastical utopian dreams”.


    Sometimes, when I am having trouble sleeping, I think about what needs to go into an “American Restoration Act” to repair the damage of the last 40 years or so.  The Endangered Species Act is near the top.  The is a “God Squad” of elders in the process who can act rationally.  They just seldom act at all.  That needs to be a factor sooner, and more often.


    The world ecosystem has survived without the wooly mammoth or the dodo.
    Elephants took the place of the wooly mammouth and  the…..
    Fish & Wildlife Service, EPA, Lefties, Greenies, Progs, the Zero, etc.  for dodos.
    What we’re lacking is a Department of Sanity.

  • Ymarsakar

    It’ll work if you can win the war. The South never took the Union forces seriously either militarily or politically when Lincoln got elected. With predictable results.

  • Ymarsakar

    DQ is overestimating the influence of public opinion and totally disregarding the power of organized networks.

    Why can’t the Democrats and Republicans work together for the good of the country? Why would anyone need to ask this if they knew what was really going on in this country.

  • Gringo

    Courtesy of our friends at Wikipedia, here are population densities of some of the counties involved.
    Those lizards are really going to be wiped out by a couple of drilling pads.
    What a bunch of maroons.
    I say this with my background of eco-freak hippie activist.

    Crane County 5/ sq. mile
    Eddy County 13/ sq mile
    Andrews County 9 /sq mile
    Winkler County 8 / sq mile
    Gaines County 10/ sq mile

  • Danny Lemieux

    Well, they did stop drilling on ANWAR because mosquitos might have been discomfited.

  • Indigo Red

    Th only positive I can see in banning oil drilling in the US now is that by the time we decide we absolutely must drill, the rest of the world will have been sucked dry and we’ll be the only oil supplier left. The big downside is that, with the Democrat appeasement policies, we’ll no longer be the United States, be speaking Arabic, and riding camels.

  • Charles Martel

    Speaking of Arabic, Arabs and many of their admirers find the language to be very beautiful, even captivating. I once borrowed a CD from the library containing sung passages from the Qu’ran and I recall thinking how powerful and moving it was.

    Of course I had no idea if the suras being sung involved Jew hatred or mistreatment of women, which led me to remember something that a linguist once said about Arabic: It is spoken by a culture that treasures the sound of something more than its content. He compared it to the Italians, whose language is so pretty that one can get lost in just listening to it and not even pay attention to the message. Closer to home, I think of Jesse Jackson, whom I’ve always enjoyed listening to even though he is a vile con man.

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  • jj

    It’s absurd at the moment, and nonsensically out of balance – but this pendulum too will swing back.  I suppose the argument would run along the lines of: over the first couple of million years of species homo-whichever supremacy on the planet we (as a race) cheerfully killed everything that moved – and it turns out  that might not have been a swell idea, either.  The graveyard of extinction headstones on the front lawn at the Bronx Zoo has more than a few that are solely attributable to whatever we thought we were up to.  (We didn’t even eat all those Passenger Pigeons, did we?)  Our Chinese friends will kill the last rhinoceros on Earth in pursuit of a f***ing fairy-tale about the imaginary benefits of its horn.  And, right to this day, this very moment, our Japanese friends will cheerfully assert their right to kill and eat the absolute last whale, and the absolute last porpoise on the planet – and feel not a twinge about it.  They are, after all, entitled to eat, are they not?
    Well, if I’m God, maybe at this late date I’m beginning to rethink that one.  Maybe, if I’m Him, I value the lizard just as much as I do you, oh race of the terminally smart-assed.  There are a few thousand whales left – there are over seven billion samples of humanity.  Very few of them worth talking to.  Nothing on the planet except some species of insects are as numerous as we – we have out-bred everything except the bugs.  Humanity isn’t ever going to be on anybody’s endangered list – unless we f*** things up so badly that we actually do render the whole thing unlivable.
    So yes: have we gone to nonsensical lengths to worry about the lizard?  Yeah – we have.  But that’s because we spent the first two million years worrying about nothing except ourselves, and we have noticed some damage from this.  Having gone too far one way, the pendulum has now gone too far the other.  Eventually, given time, it’ll find a balance.

  • Danny Lemieux

    JJ exposits forcefully, “So yes: have we gone to nonsensical lengths to worry about the lizard?  Yeah – we have.  But that’s because we spent the first two million years worrying about nothing except ourselves, and we have noticed some damage from this.”

    Ah, sadly, I am but a wee person of 40+ years or so.

  • Charles Martel

    I remember the passenger pigeon from my days as a young hitchhiker. There I’d be, standing beside State Street in Santa Barbara thumbing a ride along with dozens of other vagabonds, surrounded by legions of pesky would-be-passengers pigeons. Lacking thumbs and the ability to smile, they caught few rides.

  • BrianE

    The federal Fish and Wildlife Service is in emergency triage mode as it struggles with an avalanche of petitions and lawsuits over the endangered species list, the chief tool for protecting plants and animals facing extinction in the United States.
    Over four years, a few environmental groups have requested that more than 1,230 species be listed, compared with an annual average of only 20 species requests the previous 12 years.

    Read more: Deluge of endangered-species requests has feds requesting limit – The Denver Post
    Read The Denver Post’s Terms of Use of its content:

    New tactic by eco-facists?

  • Ymarsakar

    Charles in #10,

    what you have noticed is what I would term one of the four reactions to propaganda. Positive reception of the message, but internal disagreement with the truth of the message. The other options are positive reception and agreement that the msg is true. Negative reception and agreement with the msg, negative reception and disagreement with the msg.

    People who go by their emotions or instinct, will believe the truth of a claim if they like the claim. That’s just how most people work. If they like ya, they’ll do something for ya or accept a deal from ya.

    It takes a little bit more logic and foresight to think beyond one’s immediate emotional reactions.

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