Indian Country and energy

A new report, “The New Energy Future in Indian Country: Confronting Climate Change, Creating Jobs, and Conserving Nature,” was released by the National Wildlife Federation in collaboration with National Tribal Environmental Council, Native American Rights Fund, and Intertribal Council On Utility Policy.

The report provides an overview of the possibilities for renewable energy in Indian Country and detailed case studies of wind energy, solar power, geothermal and biomass production, as well as energy efficiency/weatherization.

“With 95 million acres of land under their management and centuries of experience conserving the natural world, Indian tribes can play a significant role in protecting natural resources from climate change and coping with a warmer world,” said Steve Torbit, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Rocky Mountain Regional Center and Tribal Lands Conservation Program.

The report details:

* The vast opportunities for renewable energy production and case studies where clean energy is already flowing in Indian Country

* Maps of energy potential in wind power, solar energy, geothermal, and biomass

* How weatherization can reduce energy costs for Tribal households

* Green jobs in Indian Country and opportunities for clean energy investments

* Tribal principles for climate legislation

The vast potential on tribal lands to generate clean energy from renewable energy resources like solar, wind turbines, biomass, and geothermal power presents tribes with the opportunity to be a significant part of America’s energy future.

They can help confront climate change and continue their legacy as conservationists, while creating clean energy jobs and generating revenue in their communities to help lift them out of poverty.

On average, Tribal households pay significantly more in home energy expenses than other Americans. Most utilities are solely owned and operated by non-Tribal entities, so the money paid to energy providers immediately leaves tribal communities. More than 14 percent of American Indian households on reservations have no access to electricity, compared to 1.2 percent of all U.S. households.

However, tribal lands, which cover almost 5 percent of the total area of the United States, hold an estimated 10 percent of the country’s renewable energy resources, including enough solar energy potential to generate 4.5 times the national total energy consumption in 2004.

Several pilot projects are under way across the country. Programs in the Department of Energy and Department of Health and Human Services, other state incentives, and the rising carbon offset market are helping tribes save money and discover critical funding opportunities.

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