Every day, countries, states and cities pass laws that require or allow for
the reduction of fossil fuels. Some do it to save the oil reserves; others
do it with health issues, the environment and the future in mind.
Denmark and Germany lead the world in wind power generation, China is now
working toward wind power, France requires more bio-fuel use in government
vehicles, and the state of New York just upped its requirement on state
vehicle use of bio-fuels. In the new energy bill just signed into law,
increased use of bio-fuels in federal vehicles is planned.
Ethanol plants are cropping up everywhere, farmers are getting into the act
by growing crops that can be turned into ethanol and are using methane for
energy production on their own farms. Stand-alone wind and solar power
generation can be seen dotting the landscape on family-owned farms.
A collective group of farmers formed "25 x '25 Vision," which has a mission
of providing 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States
by 2025 from a variety of crops.
Some states - Minnesota, for example - promote the use of E85, or a mixture
of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent motor fuel. Auto manufacturers are
producing more E85 vehicles.
Winona LaDuke, Ojibwe and executive director of Honor the Earth, said she
just bought an E85 vehicle. LaDuke lives on the White Earth Reservation in
Minnesota. Honor the Earth is dedicated to the protection of the
environment and support using renewables to produce energy.
"There is no reason tribes couldn't produce ethanol. The difference in
carbon dioxide emissions is dramatic: the difference in either paying Exxon
[Mobil Corp.] or farmers is dramatic.
"The Three Affiliated Tribes could be the ethanol kings of North Dakota,"
Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, agreed and said the
tribes of the Great Plains are sitting on a tremendous resource of
"This is a wakeup call in Indian country. It affects the economy; it
affects the national debt."
Hall referred to the nation's economic situation as an "economic tsunami."
"We will not capitalize on the opportunity if we don't plan today. If we
plan with the right people, we can take a huge opportunity," Hall said.
Renewables and energy production in Indian country may just be the next
gaming, he said.
Hall advocated a multi-tribal effort. Housing, health care and gaming all
have multi-tribal organizations, energy should have the same, he said.
All reservations are considered rural, and when the cost of energy goes up
it affects every household in Indian country. Some tribes are moving ahead
and thinking about the future in energy.
"We have a teaching of cyclical thinking: what we do today you will feel
the consequences [of] tomorrow. Instead of the idea of Armageddon, most
indigenous communities have the idea of continuous rebirth," LaDuke said.
LaDuke and Hall were featured speakers at a gathering of tribal leaders and
energy experts at what was to be the first of many Native Renewables Energy
summits. Some 200 people were in attendance.
Seventy percent of the uranium deposits in this country are located on
American Indian reservations. The fear of further increases in cancer rates
is widespread in Indian country.
"Thousands of Dine' [Navajo] miners died from radiation poisoning. The
community is heavily impacted; that is why the Navajo have a moratorium on
The Dene in Saskatchewan are located on one of the largest uranium deposits
in the world. LaDuke said they were concerned because the worldwide price
for uranium recently doubled.
Protecting Indian country from mining and exploration is one underlying
goal in the development of renewables. The more renewables used to generate
power, the lower the dependency on fossil fuels.
The northern Great Plains could produce 100 percent of the nation's energy
with wind power. But wind power alone is not adequate, and scientists and
engineers claim wind power will never become the sole source of energy.
Many reservations also have the potential for solar; some tribes have oil,
coal and natural gas deposits. If, the experts at the summit said, wind
power and solar are used along with gas-, oil- and coal-produced energy,
the hybrid would create a dramatic reduction in carbon dioxide emissions
and would be more cost-effective.
Peak oil production has already occurred and oil reserves are on the
downswing. Therefore, oil and gas will become more expensive. Coal reserves
such as those in Wyoming will last another 500 years, but with hybrid power
generation those deposits will last much longer than that, the experts told
the summit gathering.
LaDuke said markets set up in one paradigm, the ideology of which is to
basically combust fossil fuels to the edge of oblivion.
"The industrial systems are quite a bit different than indigenous teachings
and natural law. Instead of believing the Creator's law is the highest law,
we believe you can legislate and create policies that have no relationship
to natural law.
"We then allow contaminants like dioxin. We change those allowable limits
according to who is in power with no idea of combined impact on
ecosystems," LaDuke said.
Hall challenged the summit participants to put their minds together,
partner and determine what the potential resources are in Indian country.
"Identify those cities that want good affordable power made by you.
Identify all that and look at costs and make a lobbying effort. Once we
have the dollars we can complete the task; then everybody wins, including
the White House.
"Local people will win. At the end of the day, these are our resources and
this is our time," Hall said.