#NativeVote16 – Investing in coal (or better, a transition away from coal)


Quick point:

I thought Hillary Clinton’s conversation with a coal miner was the most interesting moment on the campaign yesterday.
Of course it’s time to “leave it in the ground.” And rethink fracking. But energy policy is far more complicated than a slogan. What will it do to reservation families if an end to fracking pushes gas prices back to $4 or $5 a gallon? How do we at the same time: reduce carbon emissions, keep energy costs affordable, and keep people working?
And how much of an investment will be required to create clean energy jobs (and help the workforce make that transition)? And how do we do that with a Congress that would rather drill & mine?

This will be an election issue in Montana’s House race between Democrat Denise Juneau and Ryan Zinke. The Republican incumbent has made this an issue, recently introducing legislation for a permanent tax credit for reservation mines. Zinke said: “We want to create as few economic burdens as possible, especially since tribal lands are subject to greater regulatory hurdles compared to private, state, or federal projects. Making the tax credit permanent will empower tribal governments by promoting economic and social growth. Coal-producing tribes, such as the Crow Nation, will have a greater capacity to create jobs and invest in critical projects like infrastructure and education.”

But a key part of that plan is the Gateway Terminal Pacific export terminal in Washington state, a project that Northwest tribes oppose because of its impact on the environment and salmon.

My piece on the politics of leaving coal in the ground:

Brookings has another idea: A carbon tax to help mining families. A key point from the piece: “What coalfield communities need now is to move on their transition before things get worse. To do that, they need funding, which a carbon tax is uniquely suited to provide.”


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Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant is an independent journalist. He currently serves as the Charles R. Johnson Professor at the University of North Dakota.

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