University of North Texas, Dallas

To examine how just energy transitions will affect Indigenous tribal nations in the Midwest and Southwest regions of the United States

  • Amount $451,707
  • City Dallas, TX
  • Investigator Monika Ehrman
  • Year 2021
  • Program Research
  • Sub-program Energy and Environment

The transition to a low carbon economy in the U.S. has potentially wide-ranging implications for North American tribal nations, many of whom have significant oil, gas, and coal resources that provide jobs for local workers and revenues that sustain vital government services, both of which are threatened by the move away from fossil fuels.  On the other hand, tribal lands are also home to many potentially attractive sites for new renewable energy infrastructure like solar arrays or wind farms, which could offset job and revenue losses from the decreased use of oil and gas. Understanding these tradeoffs, and the likely outcomes of various pathways towards a greener economy, is vital for evaluating current and future U.S. energy policy and for ensuring that the costs and benefits of the move to a low energy economy are equitably shared. Funds from this grant support a team led by Monika Ehrman at the University of North Texas, Dallas—in collaboration with scholars at the Resources for the Future, University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and the University of Montana—to undertake a suite of interrelated research projects that together seek to advance understanding of how the transition from fossil fuel production to clean energy will affect smaller tribal nations in the Midwest and Southwest. Ehrman and her team plans to partner with tribal nations across three different states (New Mexico, North Dakota, and Colorado). The project will begin with a series of in-depth meetings, interviews, and focus groups with leaders and key stakeholders in each tribe to inform research design, craft data sharing partnerships, and ensure that research outputs are well positioned to inform future decisions by tribal communities. The team will then use advanced economic modeling techniques to estimate the likely impacts of different policy-driven changes in the price of fossil fuels on oil and gas revenues for each of the tribes. A second component of the projects involves environmental and geospatial modeling assessments of tribal lands as potential sites for wind, solar, and other renewable energy generation. Researchers will work with participating tribes to examine how that potential for renewable energy generation differs under various policy scenarios.  Finally, a third aspect of the analysis consists of legal analysis of how U.S. energy policymaking can better account for tribal sovereignty and self-governance.   Research findings promise to inform both U.S. and tribal energy policymaking and will be reported through several academic papers, policy briefs, and symposia. Ehrman and her team will also undertake a host of community-oriented workshops and gatherings to share findings with tribal nations and will hold presentation and discussion sessions in partnership with the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on examining natural resource law. The team also expects to organize community engagement activities through the Native Nations Institute at University of Arizona.

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