No need for coal plants: Wind and solar will do

By Winona LaDuke and Nellis Kennedy

Big Stone II’s demise is not a bad sign for wind, it is the opposite. Now is the opportunity to move ahead to the next economy, not to worry about what we lost with a big polluter. Let’s give this gift to our future generations — a better future.

Take a deep breath and let’s take a look at what the next energy economy will look like.

We will move to an entirely non-fossil fuel economy based on solar and wind. We will have 89,000 solar photovoltaic and concentrated solar panels, 1.7 million rooftop PV systems to reduce combustion on most of our houses and perhaps solar water as well.

We will have 3.8 million wind turbines worldwide taking up a total area smaller than the size of Manhattan.

When the wind doesn’t blow in South Dakota, it blows in North Dakota, or Nebraska, or the steppes of Russia. Distributed wind is where we should be headed. And hydro-power can “firm“ intermittent wind — we have plenty of dams on the Missouri.

What does this mean? Transmission lines will be needed, but we shouldn’t have to combust ourselves into oblivion to get these lines. The smart grid is our solution — a strategy funded by this present administration.

A smart grid intelligently transmits and distributes power from substations to local customers (even rural ones). As it currently stands, if our grid were just 5 percent more efficient, the energy savings would equate to permanently eliminating the fuel and greenhouse gas emissions from 53 million cars.

A smart grid is not only more efficient, but also allows for more diverse energy sources.

Now take a moment to consider that the U.S. accounts for only 4 percent of the world’s population and yet is responsible for 25 percent of its greenhouse gases.

And consider that we waste almost two thirds of our power from point of production to final consumption — between inefficient lines, inefficient production and inefficient consumption.

Energy efficiency, renewable production and accessible distribution are national concerns that should be paid for with tax dollars.

The U.S. must act to invest in a clean and efficient smart grid that works for everyone and not just the big coal plants, because our children deserve a clean and reliable energy future that is not addicted to fossil fuels.

In November 2009, the Scientific American published an article outlining a worldwide plan for 100 percent clean energy in only 20 years. This is an ambitious and very feasible reality; but, it needs our support and support from others like you.

A NASA conference on indigenous peoples and climate change was just held at the Mdewakanton reservation (or Mystic Lake Casino, for those of you who know your tribes by their casino).

Attended by over 300 people, college students, NASA and climate change scientists, teachers, and community development planners, we all support a clean future and therefore agreed to “call for a moratorium on all new exploration for oil, gas, coal and uranium as a first step towards the full phase-out of fossil fuels, without nuclear power, with a just transition to sustainable jobs, energy and environment.”

To help achieve this goal, it is critical that all subsidies for coal, oil and nuclear projects be redirected to solar and wind power for energy production and manufacturing.

Representatives Peterson and Oberstar may be interested in this strategy as well.

Indeed, the Shakopee Band of Dakota already has a pretty good plan in place. Utilizing the sun, wind and plants to create a sustainable way of life, the Shakopee are actively creating clean power. The tribe produces enough biodiesel to meet 100% of its summer diesel needs and is in the process finalizing a 1.5 MW wind turbine to satisfy a substantial portion of the community’s electricity demands. Making use of waste heat and utilizing solar water heaters, the tribe is making great strides in efficiency.

In short, the transition to a green economy can revitalize local economies into a durable long term and healthy environment.

Let us work together. Be sure that your leaders understand the importance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen where decisions about your our future will be made later this month. Let us envision and create the future green economy. And, let us do this work together.

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