David Grubbs/AP
Westmoreland Coal, Montana

Montana’s Crow Nation Seeks to Develop its Coal

July 14, 2008 06:02 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
The Crow tribe in Montana says it has enough coal on its reservation to meet U.S. energy needs for nearly a decade.

30-Second Summary

Coal may be the solution to poverty for the Crow Nation, a tribe whose members average $7,400 per year in income and are unemployed at a rate of 47 percent.

Montana’s Crow tribe estimates that its reservation sits atop approximately nine billion tons of extractable coal.

With new federal laws affording Native Americans more control over their mineral resources, the Crow tribe and others around the United States could more easily develop their assets.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has long been excited about the potential effects of coal development on the energy market—particularly on coal-to-liquids technology, that could provide fuel for automobiles.

“Why wouldn’t we create an economic engine that will take us into the next century, and let those sheiks and dictators and rats and crooks from all over the world boil in their own oil?” Schweitzer asked.

But it’s not as simple as that. With its historically “dirty” reputation, opponents worry that coal development could harm the environment.

According to the Sierra Club, replacing 10 percent of U.S. fuel with liquid coal would require more than a 40 percent increase in coal mining.

The group also said that burning liquid coal could double global warming emissions.

J. Allen Wampler, a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, says the U.S. government needs to start taking steps to address that problem.

“Any plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions without making provisions for the future use of coal worldwide will be doomed from the start,” Wampler claimed.

Headline Link: ‘Crow leaders see big potential in coal’

Opinion & Analysis: Thoughts on coal development

Reference: Tribal Energy Program, coal resources


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