West Texas Lizard vs. Your Wallet

You may have never seen the dunes sagebrush lizard, but this reptile may strike you in a place that hurts: your wallet.

The government’s recent decision to halt oil drilling in a swath of west Texas in order to protect the habitat of an endangered lizard means the price of gas is about to jump. 

As the national average for the price of regular grade gasoline has dropped $0.25 to $3.71 over the last month, we have had some relief at the pump; but recent actions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services will drastically increase the price of oil and gasoline. Specifically, federal government regulations would stop drilling at 1,000 oil wells in west Texas and around 7 million barrels of oil from being produced annually to “save” this lizard.

The evidence by the government agency that this reptile might become extinct is faulty, as there are approximately 140,000 acres in west Texas that could be a possible habitat for the lizard and only 27 sites surveyed. This is clearly a very small sample size to draw a conclusion from. 

Considering that the Energy Information Administration (EIA) notes that west Texas produces 20% of the nation’s oil supply, it is clear that a reduction in supply would make fuel prices increase.

This may be what President Barack Obama wants, as he has stated numerous times that “energy prices should necessarily skyrocket.” While his agenda may be to push “green” energy sources to the forefront of the energy debate, these actions by the federal government would hurt the Texas economy, along with everyone who drives.

It may not be politically correct to appear to not care about a lizard, but it seems even worse for the government to pick winners and losers. The loser here is the American people.

So, the next time you see a spike in gasoline prices, you may thank the small lizard in west Texas that looks similar to the Geico gecko.

Photo Credit: andrewmalone

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Vance Ginn

Vance Ginn, Ph.D., is an Economist in the Center for Fiscal Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at vginn@texaspolicy.com. Vance has been a PolicyMic contributor since 2011 and has university teaching and public policy experience. Fun fact: Vance is a drummer and once played in a top-rated rock band in Houston, TX.

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