Robert Bluey

Talk about bad timing. Gas prices are spiking and U.S. energy policy is contributing to skyrocketing food costs, yet environmentalists apparently want to make it even more expensive to live in America. And they’re trying to use the polar bear to do it.

A federal judge in California ruled last week that the Bush administration must decide by May 15 whether to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act because of global warming. The upcoming deadline is fueling fears that Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne could cave to left-wing environmentalists.

Listing the polar bear as a threatened species would be a devastating blow for U.S. energy exploration and a boon to global-warming alarmists.

The classification would open the door for environmentalists to challenge any new forms of energy production -- including oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) or new power plants and factories that emit fossil fuels. It also would jeopardize a highly promising arrangement in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, which contains an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil and 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Now is not the time to cut back on domestic oil production. With gas prices soaring to nearly $4 per gallon in some parts of the country, there’s hardly been a better time to embark on energy exploration in the United States to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

“Alaska is America’s last best frontier for domestic oil and natural gas,” Ben Lieberman of The Heritage Foundation said in arguing against the polar bear’s listing. “Closing off these potential resources would add to energy prices for decades to come and increase reliance on imports.”

Worse still is that classifying the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act would put America’s energy policy in the hands of activist judges. Environmentalists who want to halt construction of a power plant in Minnesota, for instance, could simply run to court complaining how it would harm the polar bear.

Robert Bluey

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at