Icebreakers, Lizards, and Gasoline Prices

After spending 5 years and nearly $4B on planning, exploration, and leases, Shell Oil has announced that it will have to scrap plans to drill for oil this summer in the Arctic Circle, off the northern coast of Alaska. The EPA has withheld the required air permits because the emissions from one single ice-breaking vessel were not included in the environmental impact calculations. More here.

In Texas and New Mexico, no icebreakers are required for oil & gas exploration…but there is danger that activity will be shut down across a wide area to avoid any possible inconvenience to this cute little guy, the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard. (Bookworm is right–the lizard does have a rather Churchill-esque expression.) If the Dunes Lizard goes on the endangered species list, then both agriculture and energy would be affected:

“We are very concerned about the Fish and Wildlife Service listing,” said Ben Shepperd, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, 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.”

Shepperd says that 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.”

The United States Government is currently not being run by adults. And even when/if adult leadership is put in place, it will be very difficult to control the complaining-regulating-litigating machine that has been created over the last several decades. Tens of thousands of people–lawyers, government employees, “nonprofit” executives, “community activists” of various types–make their livings by working to stop productive activity, especially in the energy industry. Even if he wanted to–and he clearly does not–Obama would have difficulty in reining in the excesses of the environmental movement and those who profit from it.

I’m reminded of the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence in the old Disney movie Fantasia, involving Mickey, the brooms, and the buckets.

(Alaska link via Little Miss Attila)

8 thoughts on “Icebreakers, Lizards, and Gasoline Prices”

  1. It is no accident. The environmentalist Left, the movement Left, the Congressional rent-seekers, the litigation industry and supporting bureaucracies all share an interest in channeling economic activity through regulatory toll plazas that they control. Just get in line and in a few years, after a few billion sunk, you might get approval for your project (and don’t complain publicly or we’ll reject your application because your icebreaker is 3 parts per billion over some arbitrary limit).

    This is a concerted attack not on the rich, who don’t need to make more for themselves, but on the poor and middle classes who need opportunities for entrepreneurship and capital investment to generate the productivity increases, wealth and jobs that will advance them up the economic ladder. It is also a straightforward power grab by people who cannot be trusted with power.

    The best solution to this problem is to cut govt spending radically. Easier said than done but is there any other response that could be effective?

  2. The Fish and Wildlife Service and the EPA have dramatically exceeded their mandate and should be shut down.

    EPA: 2010 budget of $10.486 B
    FWS: 2008 budget of $ 2.64 B

    10 year savings: $131.26 B (at least)

    The improvement to the economy is likey a healthy multiple of that.

  3. The interesting thing about these actions, and I add the shutting down of irrigation of California’s Central Valley to protect the Delta smelt, is that they make no sense in a long term economic fashion. These people are not considering alternatives or even if the present society can continue with these restrictions on critical functions like energy and agriculture. This is a form of anarchist behavior. Shut down oil exploration and acquisition and I don’t care if the place collapses.

    It has been noted that the support for environmentalism, which has been very high since the 1970s, is sharply declining. The only references I can find now are from 2003 but even then there was decreasing support. This paper [pdf] has some interesting charts but it all dates prior to 2000. The recent article I saw is not findable today. I should note that Google is useless here and I used other search engines. If you don't know that political searches on Google are biased, you haven't been paying attention. It's like going to Wikipedia for unbiased info on global warming. It ain't there.

    The figure I saw a week or so ago was well down in the 50% or less range when the question was enviro vs economy.

  4. Dan Kish, a vp at the Institute for Energy Research:

    “The president now says his administration is pushing major oil producers to increase oil output in an effort to lower prices. What he really needs is to have someone tell the government of the world’s third largest oil producer to boost output. In case he is unaware, that oil producer is the United States.”


    “The president is beginning to look like the Ugly American in his attempts to point the finger of blame anywhere but his record, which includes seeking higher taxes on energy and stopping energy production wherever possible. It requires a suspension of disbelief to accept his protests about higher energy prices when that is his policy. His chickens are coming home to roost.”


  5. If you want honest, competent governance, electoral politics just won’t get the job done.There is no “Democracy”today,with the possible exception of Switzerland, which hasn’t been taken over by a self serving and incompetent,indeed,malignant political class.
    One suggestion: lawsuits brought against gov’t agencies or officials,on behalf of the people to shut down useless agencies. Of course the party bringing the suit would get a share of the funds returned to the treasury. You want great work done-the incentives must be right.

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