QC Model UN Presents:
Author: Abhinandan Gaba
The United States has been one of the world’s largest producers of energy in the past couple of decades. In fact, from 1980 to 2022, it led the world in energy production more than a dozen times. However, in the race to become one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of energy the United States has hurt its own. Foreign policy should protect domestic interests but the foreign energy policy has hurt Native Americans. On their own land Native Americans have become domestically foreign.
The vast majority of American energy does not come from renewable energy. Therefore, more than 35% of energy comes from crude oil and more than 30% from natural gas. These energy sources are the fuel that keep our homes, cities, and economy running.
In addition to domestic usage, America exports a significant amount of energy. America is a net importer in terms of crude oil, in other words we import more oil than we export. Therefore, for the sake of a simplistic and consistent argument, we will disregard crude oil in this article but it will be addressed in a follow up article. The United States is a net exporter in terms of natural gas, in other words, it exports more natural gas than it imports.
Natural gas is a type of fossil fuel that can be found in a variety of manners–ranging from cracks in the ground to breaking rocks. Most commonly, it is extracted through drilling by hydraulic fracturing technology–better known as fracking. Natural gas was first found by French explorers in the 1600s after they discovered Native Americans using the natural gas to ignite fires by Lake Erie. Unfortunately, today, many Native Americans are paying the price for the discovery.
Native American reservations cover 2% of America but may have up to 20% of its natural gas reserves. With Native Americans having little political or economic sway, these natural gas reserves have been secured by oil companies. One prime example is of New Mexico. New Mexico has the third highest Native American population and accounts for some of the largest tribal lands in the country. New Mexico is one of the largest producers of natural gas in the United States. Consequently, Navajo tribes in New Mexico have been the victims of natural gas fracking. Natural gas fracking poses multiple issues: habit damage, vegetation issues, and air quality issues.
Fracking has made the ground relatively unstable and mini earthquakes have become consistent. This has caused habitat damage for many animals, such as snakes who are now unable to spend the winter months buried below the surface because of vibrations. Much of the damage that natural gas fracking causes to wildlife is still being studied. Early studies show that multiple species of birds are heavily and negatively impacted by fracking. Additionally, water quality and air pollution impose additional damage to farm animals and local wildlife.
Thousands of Native Americans are farmers. Natural gas consists of multiple chemicals, including methane. Due to the increase of methane in Navajo reservations, much of the vegetation has died off and the climate has dried. The pipelines that carry natural gas also hurt vegetation as they are prone to leaks. Statistically, the construction of pipelines has been proven to show a decline in crop growth.
Natural gas is known to harm air quality, which may help explain the high number of asthma cases in Native Americans. The methane expelled by natural gas has led to headaches and breathing problems in Native American communities. The chemicals expelled by the fracking of natural gas have also been linked to neurological problems, especially in children. Currently, there are few studies examining the effects of neurological problems caused by natural gas production.
Habitat, vegetation, and air quality issues are a few of the many problems faced by Native Americans reservations near natural gas reserves. Natural gas companies have made substantial profits, despite that, many Native Americans have never received any direct benefits. Due to the lack of attention given by mainstream media, this is a problem that has been ignored, making Native Americans domestically foreign on their own land.