The Lizard That Defeated The Energy Industry

How can a lizard destroy the energy industry? Apparently, by its very existence.

That obviously hasn’t happened yet, considering the energy industry’s current upswing in corporate profits. But a face-off in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico is worrying industry advocates that a tiny reptile might stop the business sector in its tracks.

The reptile is the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard. It lives in the sand that is required by upstream energy producers to engage in fracking operations. Without this natural resource, the firms would be unable to extract oil and gas from the ground for delivery to energy customers.

Prior to the fracking era, the lizard was considered for designation as an Endangered Species. It wasn’t granted that status at the time, but today, commercial operations in its natural habitat are raising new concerns about the viability of the tiny creature.

We’ve heard such concerns before, haven’t we? During the 1970s, for instance, a tiny fish called the snail darter delayed the construction and operation of the Tellico Dam. The project included a $115 million hydroelectric facility on the Little Tennessee River.

And several years ago, Michael Kraten (the author of this blog) developed a composite business case named Save The Blue Frog. It trains college students, industry producers, and their investors to develop methods for assessing the impact of environmental factors on the long-term sustainable value of energy projects.

The case has evolved into an active learning role-playing simulation game. It now provides the foundation and framework for Michael’s Sustainability and MBA Capstone Accounting courses at Providence College. And it is also heavily utilized in the Rhode Island Society of CPA’s Certified Sustainable Value Professional (CSVP) program.

And what of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard? At the moment, energy producers, environmental groups, and government regulators are all proposing potential solutions to this existential problem. If they can achieve an agreement that balances the needs of our human and lizard societies, they may provide a blueprint for addressing other intractable issues as well.