The Obama administration is moving to include Native Americans in the renewable-energy revolution, launching a new program to promote the development and use of clean energy by providing funding and resources for energy education and literacy in tribal communities. The program, called the American Indian Research and Education Initiative, was established with the backing of the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities, as well as the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity and the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
In announcing the program, the DOE noted that American Indian communities are uniquely situated in a “matrix of energy production and energy use” – Tribal lands are often repositories of coal, oil and uranium, and they have excellent potential for renewables such as solar and wind; but at the same time, many homes lack electricity or are poorly protected from the weather, and those that have power pay high utility rates.
To create energy literacy in these communities, the DOE has partnered with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) to provide funding for scientific and energy-related education and research for students of American Indian heritage.
The hope is that through funding and education, American Indian communities will be able to successfully develop, manage and benefit from various energy resources on their lands. Students will have the opportunity to work with community energy projects on Tribal lands under the guidance of the DOE’s Natural Laboratories. Courses and workshops will be offered, as well as guidance regarding research and career options.
This isn’t the administration’s first attempt to improve the energy lot for Native Americans. Earlier this month we reported on the administration’s move to pump $6.3 million into 31 energy projects on reservations, which followed up on an earlier DOE announcement that it would establish an Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, and would allocate $10 million in 2011 for the evaluation, development and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects on tribal lands.
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