One-Third of America’s Electrical Energy from Impoverished Indian Lands?

Native wind energy efforts display vision (ICT)

It is good to finally see some potential for American Indians away from the major metropolitan areas. Most Indians are not the Mishatucket Pequots (Foxwoods Casino) where everyone is a millionaire.

Intertribal COUP is a nonprofit council of federally recognized Indian tribes from North Dakota (Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa, and part of Standing Rock and Sisseton-Wahpeton), and South Dakota (Cheyenne River, Flandreau Santee, Lower Brule, Oglala, Rosebud, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Spirit Lake Tribe and Standing Rock), and the Omaha Nation of Nebraska and Iowa. Chartered and headquartered on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, it has operated since 1994 to provide a tribal forum for policy issues in energy utility operations and services and telecommunications.

NativeEnergy has been a leading national marketer of Renewable Energy Credits and greenhouse gas offsets. It has worked to help tribal and rural communities develop their own sustainable economies based on the generation of clean, renewable energy. Now, on behalf of its member tribes, COUP has closed the ownership circle by purchasing a majority interest in the energy marketing company. [That means they are experts at figuring out the Federal Tax Code]

Said COUP President Patrick Spears, a member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe: ”Living in harmony with our Mother Earth is not only good for the environment, it is also good business.” [Lewis & Clark didn’t exactly get along with the Brule Sioux] Spears also pointed out the excellent strategic fit between the two outfits, which stems from the mutually recognized integrity of purpose and method. It is always encouraging to hear such language from Indian country leaders of tribal economic ventures.

The earlier success of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe wind project was also directly tied to its partnering with NativeEnergy, from which it received the benefit of that company’s wide range of customers. Also run on a commercial level, the Rosebud initiative was the first such 100 percent American Indian-owned and operated wind facility. The new venture intends to continue expanding by supporting ”off-reservation,” renewable projects in partnership with the COUP tribes, according to President and CEO Tom Boucher.

The wind corridors of the northern Plains offer a promising solution. Spears pointed out the ”all-time record low water levels behind the dams on the Missouri River have resulted in diminished hydropower generation, lost revenue from the lack of surplus power sales, reductions in hydropower allocations to preference customers, [and] increased costs …” It also forces the Western Area Power Association to fuel 80 percent of its capacity with conventional fossil (non-renewable and polluting) fuels. Again, Spears: ‘‘The tribes in the northern Plains have a huge wind resource. Wind energy from tribal lands alone can meet at least one-third of the nation’s energy needs. Wind energy has the greatest potential to restore our economies. With more than half of our population under the age of 20, wind energy development can provide skilled technical employment for our youth.

Having traveled the lands of the Plains Indians, my journal for Aug 22, 2002 states,

In Kilgore [NE] I stopped for water. The 2 businesses in town were bars/liquor stores. It was swiftly apparent that they specialized in case sales of beer to the Native Americans from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota just to the north. Similarly I had noted lots of bars and liquor stores in Valentine. It is pathetic that the reservations in South Dakota are some of the poorest areas of the country, and the term “drunken Indian” is not always a stereotype.

I was mild in my description. I went into the place and was surrounded by cases of beer. They was little else in the store. But a few days later I was at a Northern Arapaho pow-wow, and it was a totallly different story. My point here is that each tribe is different.

I wish them the best, they need it. But I fear there will be no long term jobs because the people are not educated enough (nor desire to be educated enough) to take on the new jobs. I hope I am wrong.

Disclaimer: I have relatives who are “blood” Indians, I am not. (Blood Indian is a legal description, USC, for those that might take offense without knowledge).

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business
Richard Gardner
About Richard Gardner
Richard Gardner is a “retired” Navy Submarine Officer with military policy, arms control, and budgeting experience. He contributed over 100 pieces to OTB between January 2004 and August 2008, covering special events. He has a BS in Engineering from the University of California, Irvine.

Comments

  1. Steve Verdon says:

    One third of the U.S. power needs? In Southern California alone that would be about 29,000,000,000 kwh for one year. Considering that they are buying 80 10MW windmills we are talking at most 7,000 MWh. The article says enough energy for 23,000 homes. So if there are 100,000,000 homes in the U.S. and that 80 windmills to 25,000 homes (being generous here) is good then you’d need 100,000 windmills, and that is for the residential customers alone. Overall, I’d say you’d need probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 to 500,000 windmills. Of course, it is late and those are just crude back of the envelope calculations.

    Now, perhaps nation meant the indian tribes, as in

    Intertribal COUP is a nonprofit council of federally recognized Indian tribes from North Dakota (Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa, and part of Standing Rock and Sisseton-Wahpeton), and South Dakota (Cheyenne River, Flandreau Santee, Lower Brule, Oglala, Rosebud, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Spirit Lake Tribe and Standing Rock), and the Omaha Nation of Nebraska and Iowa. Chartered and headquartered on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, it has operated since 1994 to provide a tribal forum for policy issues in energy utility operations and services and telecommunications.–emphasis added

  2. jody smith says:

    the treatment of native americans in this country is very very shameful. it is time something good may come their way.