There's No Need to 'Save' the Polar Bear

Exxon used to encourage motorists to ”put a tiger in your tank.” Well, a different animal may begin influencing traffic soon. Polar bears could force drivers to shell out even more money for gasoline.

Why? Because environmental groups are pushing to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, and the Bush administration is considering their demands.

It might make sense — if the polar bear were endangered. But the worldwide population of these bears has more than doubled since 1965, to an estimated 20,000-25,000 today. Far from being threatened, by all accounts the bears are thriving.

So what’s behind the push to ”save” the bears? A desire to ban energy exploration in much of Alaska, and a threatened species tag is just the ticket to make it happen.

Once a species is listed, its ”critical habitat” is broadly defined to include vast areas. The government then drafts a ”recovery plan” that often contains onerous restrictions on economic activity inside the habitat and, in some cases, even outside it, trumping property rights in the process. Plus, environmental groups can sue to force the Interior Department to include additional restrictions.

The first victim of a polar-bear listing would be new oil and natural gas production throughout Alaska and in its surrounding waters. The listing would end any chances of opening up a small part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, estimated to contain 10 billion barrels of oil — enough to offset nearly 15 years worth of current imports from Saudi Arabia.

That’s a problem, because Alaska is America’s last best frontier for domestic oil and natural gas. Closing off these potential resources would jack up energy prices for decades to come and make us even more dependent on imports.

Read the full story at the Miami Herald

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