Policy: Environment & Energy

Native Americans are among chief victims of Big Green's war on coal

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Ron Arnold,Columnists,EPA,Analysis,Energy and Environment,Coal,Native Americans

Global government policies to reduce carbon emissions will not prevent a hydrocarbon world. That’s what the World Energy Congress heard this week from energy research experts Wood Mackenzie.

The firm's president of global markets, William Durbin, said that coal will surpass oil as the dominant fuel later this decade because of aggressive economic expansion in China and India using the cheapest and most plentiful energy resource.

As King Coal rises in Asia - with little or no emissions control - President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency is creating a fool's paradise by destroying the world's cleanest, most controlled coal industry with fatal regulations.

That does not play well on America's Indian reservations where the “Great White Father in Washington” virtually prohibits development of its vast coal reserves, much of it the cleaner, low-sulfur anthracite.

“Indian reservations contain almost 30 percent of the nation's coal reserves west of the Mississippi, as well as significant deposits of oil, natural gas and uranium,” wrote Terry Anderson and Shawn Regan in the Wall Street Journal last week.

“The Council of Energy Resource Tribes, a tribal energy consortium, estimates the value of these resources at nearly $1.5 trillion,” Anderson and Regan wrote.

I spoke to Anderson by phone – he’s president of the Montana-based Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), holds a PhD in economics, is senior fellow at the Hoover Institution (Stanford University), has authored 37 books, and has more experience promoting Native American property rights than most anybody outside of tribal lawyers.

Shawn Regan is a PERC research fellow who holds a master’s degree in applied economics.

Anderson’s take on Obama’s coal war: “It’s locking Native Americans in a poverty trap. Indian incomes are about a third of those for all U.S. citizens, and unemployment rates are four times the national average.”

I asked Anderson about his quote from Crow tribal chairman Darrin Old Coyote: "The war on coal is a war on our families and our children."

Wasn’t that considerably more blunt than usual, especially since he said it to Washington state's Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell?

In answer, Anderson sent me an oil drilling map of areas surrounding the Crow and the Fort Berthold Reservations. Each map was full of dots representing drill sites, except inside reservation boundaries where they were scant, yet the oil field invisibly extended inside. Why?

Anderson said “The Bureau of Indian Affairs severely restricts Indians' right to control their own land and, as a result, has left energy resources on reservations virtually moribund. Indians are being made to starve in the midst of their own plenty.”

They’re getting fed up. Ron Crossguns of the Blackfeet tribe's oil and gas department said in an interview, "It's our right. We say yes or no. I don't think the outside world should come out here and dictate to us what we should do with our properties."

You can feel the smoldering anger, but Crossguns also has a wicked sense of humor: A greenie reporter badgered him on and on about oil drilling south of Chief Mountain (Nínaiistáko in Blackfeet) because it’s considered a sacred place, site of ceremonies for centuries.

Crossguns replied to her, “I took a medicine man, a holy man, with me to scout the place and when we got there I asked if it had religious significance to our tribe, our culture. He looked at me and said, ‘What’s sacred is between you and God.’ Then he pointed to the mountain and said, ‘It’s a rock. A big rock.’”

The story is true, but Crossguns relishes telling about the flustered greenie.

The Indians want their land back. They want the right to develop it if they so choose. And it looks like they’re planning to do something about it.

Did I sense a revolution brewing? Anderson said, “Maybe not a revolution. But a change? Yes, definitely.”

Well, a little rebellion now and then is a good thing. I have that on good authority.

RON ARNOLD, a Washington Examiner columnist, is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.
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