Transcript: Winona Laduke (post-petroleum economy), Jun 20 2006

Winona Laduke is an author, environmental advocate, Native American leader and two-time vice presidential candidate with the Green Party. Alternative Energy on Native American lands.

Thom Hartmann interview with Winona Laduke 20 June 2006 on KPOJ

[Thom Hartmann] Winona Laduke is on the line. Winona Laduke, an author, environmental advocate, Native American leader, two-time vice presidential candidate with the Green Party for whom I voted in 2000. She was raised in Ashland, Oregon. Winona Laduke, welcome to the program.

[Winona Laduke] Hey, thanks!

[Thom Hartmann] Great to have you with us, here. By the way, just a heads-up for our listeners: you're going to be speaking tonight at 6:30 at the Portland Art Museum's Grand Ballroom which is at SW 12th & Park, downtown. Tickets are $10 and you're going to be talking about building a post-petroleum economy if I have this right. Is that correct?

[Winona Laduke] I think it's about time, don't you?

[Thom Hartmann] Yeah.

[Heidi Tauber]: A little late, almost.

[Thom Hartmann] Indeed!

[Winona Laduke] Not looking good for those of us who want to hang on to them dinosaurs, so yeah!

[Thom Hartmann] There you go! Building an economy based on dinosaur bones just doesn't seem to make sense. That's what we're doing with fossil fuels. What do you see, Winona Laduke, as the intersection between environmental advocacy, economics, and particularly impact the economics of oil, Native American issues and politics?

[Winona Laduke] Wow I love those questions. All right. Figure this: Indian reservations are the windiest place in the country. Huh! How did that work out, right? So, you have like the Great Plains tribes, western, you know, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, you know, Great Lakes, Indian reservations happen to have like class 4, class 5, the best wind in the darn country.

[Thom Hartmann] Right, because at one time that was considered the worst land.

[Winona Laduke] Yeah, I guess that's how they worked it out.

[Thom Hartmann] Yeah, but that's a whole 'nother issue.

[Winona Laduke] Right, so then, you know, so then you look at this, and the potential, the studies ? basically say the tribes have the potential to produce half of present installed U.S. electrical consumption.

[Thom Hartmann] Wouldn't that be amazing if the Native American tribes in the United States were to shift their economic base from casinos to being power suppliers. They could take on Chevron!

[Winona Laduke] Right. Well, I mean that the thing is that tribal governments are in a situation of having casinos because the feds have said to Indian tribes, "We'll support your sovereignty if you want a casino or if you want a nuclear waste dump."

[Thom Hartmann] Right.

[Winona Laduke] Pretty much.

[Thom Hartmann] But not anything else.

[Winona Laduke] Right. "You know, you want your land back, you want to clean up that toxic waste site, you don't want them to drill on your land? You're kidding! We're not going to support you for that."

[Thom Hartmann] Right.

[Winona Laduke] "But you want a casino? We'll give you that!.

[Thom Hartmann] So, if the tribes were to get into power, would they run up against all the rules and regulations and weirdnesses, and, you know, grids and monopolies and things that would make it difficult to do?

[Winona Laduke] Yeah. The grids are clogged with coal and bad dam projects.

[Thom Hartmann] Sure. Well, and regulations that keep entrepreneurs out.

[Winona Laduke] Well, yes, and we have a lot of work that people are battling on now, you know, on these issues. But, you know, so it turns out, Minnesota has even a better energy policy than Oregon. You know, we have a more progressive, we have like some of the most progressive wind, you know, so you get these renewable energy portfolios that are getting demanded by states and consumers, right? Signing on, and people want green power. It turns out, utility companies have to start buying it. And so, you know, Southern California Edison just closed down this really terrible facility, the Mojave generating station that was spewing out everything in southern Nevada, using all this Navajo coal and all this Navajo water. And the native people that, you know, the Navajos took their case over to the PUC, Public Utilities Commission over in. And Southern California Edison said, you know, what you were going to try to sell on the market, your pollution credits basically, you don't actually have the right to sell, necessarily. We had to put them in escrow accounts. What we're saying is, you've got to come up with some alternative power. So, in the south west, these tribes are saying, Navajo activists and all are saying, you want 1200 MW, how about 1200 MW of solar?

[Thom Hartmann] Right.

[Winona Laduke] You see what I'm saying?

[Thom Hartmann] Sure.

[Winona Laduke] Energy is the largest business in the world, you know, we're the most gluttonous country in the world. And the question of what we're going to do in the future, you know, hanging on to all the bad ideas of the last millennium aren't going to cut it.

[Thom Hartmann] Yep.

[Winona Laduke] It's a huge demand. We need to move into this new renewable economy and so I'm working with my own community - I live on the White Earth reservation - we're working on, I'm getting our wind projects up. We've got a couple small ones up. We're looking at a larger project, then a commercial project. And that's pretty much what I'm encouraging communities to do for their own tribes for their own energy economy. Saying you're basically wasting. I mean, the state of Oregon is; people waste basically a fifth to, in our reservation, a quarter of their income on energy .

[Thom Hartmann] Right.

[Winona Laduke] You know, gas for your car, your electric bill, heating bill. That's going out the door to power companies. In stead you could grow a local economy.

[Thom Hartmann] Right.

[Winona Laduke] Which is much better for Oregon's economy, much better for the economy of White Earth Reservation, for Umatilla Reservation, Warm Springs, you know, so that's what I'm working on. It's kind of this, how you re-localize your economy, whether it's food, or whether it's energy and that is a lot more sustainable.

[Thom Hartmann] This sounds so great. We're talking with Winona Laduke author, environmental advocate, Native American leader, two-time vice presidential candidate with the Green Party. She's going to be speaking tonight at 6:30 at the Portland Art Museum's Grand Ballroom at SW 12th & Park, downtown. Tickets are $10. Winona Laduke, what are the obstacles to realizing this opportunity that you're describing?

[Winona Laduke] Well, you've got to battle, it's a policy thing; bad policy. I mean, although it is arguably getting better. But, you know, you've got to keep battling the bad policy which, you know, we could just talk endlessly about the Bush administration, but basically spending all your money for all the years on coal and nukes, you know, that's not a good plan. If you just invest some of that in renewables, there's no reason why, you know the only reason why the United States is so far behind Denmark in wind technology is because we're stupid. The Danes aren't like some radical communist country. The Danes are like the guys who realize that wind was the energy of the future. And we consume far more than they do.

[Thom Hartmann] They also didn't have coal or oil. I mean, they were importing virtually all their energy, so they said, "Hey, we've got to do something".

[Winona Laduke] Right. I mean, and we don't, you know, we import or we just invade places and get it.

[Thom Hartmann] Yeah.

[Winona Laduke] The Danes didn't have a big enough army.

[Thom Hartmann] There you go!

[Winona Laduke] To get whatever they wanted from everybody else. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that. But that's basically it.

[Thom Hartmann] There's a germ of truth to it. I mean, not just a germ of truth. It is true.

[Winona Laduke] So, in any case, you know, that's, they saw the writing on the wall and they worked out that the best way to be friends with more people in the world was to get your act together in stead of go take other people's stuff. So, they're n it. We need more R&D. We need to re-localize some of it as well as build big power. Those are some of the elements of it. From the travel standpoint, it turns out, I went to this wind conference and there's this nice guy called Don Andre who works on energy up here. I went to this wind conference and it was the most racially and gender-stratified conference I've been at in years.

[Thom Hartmann] That's great.

[Winona Laduke] Community Wind Conference. It was amazing, it was like, "Is this the community event?" It was like 95% white guys who were 50. You know, there was like 5 women and 2 native people there.

[Thom Hartmann] Oh, de-stratified, I thought, I'm sorry.

[Winona Laduke] No, no. But the funny thing was that all those guys were like names like Sven and Lars and Leif. And I was like, "we've got to get our act together here. We've got to transfer some of this knowledge that Lars and Leif have into these communities. You know, if you see what I'm saying. So that's another obstacle in this intellectual capital. You've got all these smart renewable energy guys who are totally, hat's off to them, they got it. But you know, the broader community needs to understand renewables and understand conservation.

[Thom Hartmann] Yeah. Are you suggesting that the renewable energy guys were folks who were coming from Scandinavian in Europe?

[Winona Laduke] Yeah, pretty much that's what I was saying. I'm not kidding.

[Thom Hartmann] I see, OK. I didn't know if it was that or if it was people from Minnesota who were the descendants of people from Scandinavia.

[Winona Laduke] Well, a few of those too. Exactly.

[Thom Hartmann] Yeah, OK, interesting. But it was mostly Europeans who were there.

[Winona Laduke] And people that were working here from those countries and I, you know, I thought they were great, but I just really, it was so striking.

[Thom Hartmann] It's time to bring it home.

[Winona Laduke] Yeah, to bring it home. So you've got that piece, you've got the policy piece, you've got the financing piece. You know, I was at the Buffett awards last night, you know, the EcoTrust awards for these environmental activists or for Native activists and a lot of them, you know, really remarkable.

[Thom Hartmann] Yeah.

[Winona Laduke] Activists, long-term activists, but you know, I was looking at Warren Buffett's stock here last year, you know, which is worth checking out occasionally if you're interested in the stock market. $39,000 dollars for a piece of stock, but that guy took a beating. He took a beating after Katrina. Why? Because half of his stock was, a chunk of it, is in insurance companies.

[Thom Hartmann] Right.

[Winona Laduke] So, those investment guys gotta get wise. You cannot invest in combusting. You're gonna lose your shorts.

[Thom Hartmann] Yeah, well, in fact, over the last over the last twenty years, I mean, I wrote a book about this in 1996 called The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight about the end of oil and at that point …

[Winona Laduke] Really!

[Thom Hartmann] Yeah, and at that point in time Swiss Re, the reinsurance company, was leading the charge to get Kyoto, you know, done and to stop global warming because they were looking at the insurance industry being wiped out by things like Hurricane Katrina. I mean, they were predicting that back in '96.

[Winona Laduke] Right, and I was reading USA Today, that radical paper, and they were saying like, you know, American Life and some of these guys are thinking of not insuring coastal areas. So what I'm saying is like the economy needs to get with it

[Thom Hartmann] Indeed.

[Winona Laduke] We need to invest in it and, you know, so that's a lot of the work that we're doing in our community, and I talk about the community that I work in just because that's my biggest experience. But I feel like if we can work on creating a new energy economy and arguably that the economically poorest counties of the state of Minnesota, the folks around Portland and Oregon certainly can get their act together.

[Thom Hartmann] Amen. And people can learn more about it tonight, 6:30 PM at the Portland Art Museum's Grand Ballroom, SW 12th & Park downtown. Tickets $10. Winona Laduke, the author, environmental advocate, Native American leader and two-time vice presidential candidate with the Green Party, she'll be there. Be there or be square. But Winona Laduke, thanks a lot for being with us today.

[Winona Laduke] Thanks for having me.

[Thom Hartmann] Good talking with you.

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