By the title, you probably think that I’m referring to a recent drop in gasoline prices.  While lower fuel costs should certainly come as welcome news, the “unlikely” victory comes in the form of a small desert reptile.

This week the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that it will not list the dunes sagebrush lizard as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act, and will instead cooperate with oil and gas producers to advance conservation plans and ensure the vitality of the species.  Had the federal government advanced plans to list the species, significant amounts of energy production in the resource-abundant Permian Basin in New Mexico and Texas would be inaccessible to producers and consumers alike.

Last month CEA learned that the federal government was looking to make a final decision on its proposed “endangered” listing for the lizard.  Immediately, we informed our network of consumer-advocates in the southwest region, who responded by sending over 13,000 letters directly to Secretary Salazar.  These thousands of citizens understand well the value of American energy production and that U.S. producers have found successful methods of minimizing environmental impact.  Energy production and environmental protection can go hand in hand.

CEA was further concerned with the basis of a potential “endangered” listing.  Questions quickly arose about the integrity of the science underpinning an “endangered” listing for this species and, subsequently, the effect an “endangered” listing could have on the health of the species.  In examining a decision that could affect thousands of jobs and over 1 million barrels of daily oil production, the federal government must weigh its decisions based on sound, tested science, not politics.  Anything less is unacceptable.

It may seem like an odd thing to cheer about, especially when few people have ever heard of this type of lizard.  But during a time when there seem to be unlimited ways to thwart domestic energy production,  there is  cause to celebrate when American energy consumers unite, demand rational solutions to balance energy production and conservation, and influence the course of the public debate.