U.S. must deal with “microChina” in its own back yard

Hamilton%2C%20Tyler45X64.jpgPosted by Tyler Hamilton
I have a feature in today’s Toronto Star that looks at the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest, and how the largest Indian reservation in America is pursuing an economic development strategy based on mining and burning more coal. In many ways the Navajos are like a tiny rural China the size of West Virginia, and like China, they want to be more green but are also driven to lift themselves out of poverty. The Navajo tribal council believes tapping more coal reserves is the fastest way to do that, but many in the Navajo community believe the focus should be on renewables first, Navajo%20Coal-203X150.jpgnot just because of climate issues but also because of problems with localized pollution and health issues. If the U.S. government let’s the Navajo government get its way, it will send a bad signal at a time when the U.S. is expecting developing nations like China and India to get greener. If the U.S. government says no, the Navajo Nation — like the Chinese — can rightly ask why they are being denied a standard of living enjoyed by the rest of America. Somewhere in this dilemma there is a comprise that achieves both objectives — solar thermal power plants, rooftop solar PV, geothermal and wind. But there are challenges to getting there…

Existing coal-powered generating plants on and near Navajo lands (left) can be spotted by plumes of fumes. But clear skies, lots of space and hot geology are propelling renewable options (right).

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