Meet the lizard that will kill Texas oil production

Texas has a shale boom starting that could dramatically increase American oil production — an increase perhaps as high as 25%, which would help curb gas prices and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil. The Eagle Ford field just got sold today to Marathon Oil for $3.5 billion, which gives an indication of the field’s value. But this field could be at risk — and other fields as well — if the US Fish and Wildlife Service lists the sand dunes lizard as endangered:

The sand dune lizard is a small reptile that has become the scourge of the Texas Oil industry, not because it is dangerous but because the threatened species could put land ripe for oil exploration off limits.

“As far as I am concerned, it is Godzilla,” Texas land commissioner Jerry Paterson told ABC News. “[It’s] the biggest threat facing the oil business in memory,” said Ben Shepperd, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association. They believe the small tan-colored, insectivorous lizard could cost the oil industry and surrounding communities thousands of jobs. …

If the species makes the list, its 800,000 acre habitat in the shinnery oak sand dune communities of southeastern New Mexico and southwestern Texas would receive protected status. That habitat happens to be right in the heart of Texas oil country.

“If the lizard is put on the endangered species list, then [rigs] would [be] shutdown,” Leslyn Wallace, a land manager at RSP Permian, told ABC News. That would cost many Texans their jobs.

Sounds quite a bit like the Delta smelt, doesn’t it? The federal government shut off water to one of the richest agricultural regions in the US to save a bait fish and ended up turning California’s Central Valley into a dust bowl, throwing thousands of people out of work and impacting the American food supply. As the USFW official explains in this video, the government doesn’t consider economics when listing endangered species, an act that essentially federalizes land and puts up so many barriers to use that any industry dries up — literally, in the case of the Delta smelt.

I wrote about this five weeks ago when the topic first arose, but ABC puts this in important perspective. The impact of listing this lizard could make 500 million barrels of oil that we know of off limits in Texas. That won’t just kill jobs in that state; it will contribute to rising energy costs that will choke the economy even more than now, with losses of jobs extending nationally and far into the future.