His father, he told us, was a king of one of Borneo’s dozens of Dayak tribes, the sixth descendant of the sultan of Old Kotawaringin, and his mother came from a line of warriors who served in the Indonesian special forces.
In 2001, he said, he took part in a brutal ethnic cleansing of Indonesians who had moved in from the nearby island of Madura.
In Bea Nehas, the small plots that homes are built on are in constant jeopardy of being burned to the ground and bulldozed.
A sprawling plantation that surrounds the village produces huge volumes of palm oil. The dirt road was ruler straight, but deep holes and errant boulders tossed our tiny Toyota back and forth.
The unprecedented palm-oil boom, meanwhile, has enriched and emboldened many of the region’s largest corporations, which have begun using their newfound power and wealth to suppress critics, abuse workers and acquire more land to produce oil.
We arrived at another plantation and stopped near where a stream coursed through the bog.
Now, Bush proposed, homegrown energy could be drawn from the rural places most in need of an economic boost.
Clean-coal initiatives would generate the electricity of the future, but it was biofuels — in particular ethanol, which is largely distilled from corn, and biodiesel, made with vegetable oil — that would power the vehicles of the future.
The president was no climate champion — he had backed out of the Kyoto Protocol shortly after taking office in 2001 — but he did favor what he called “energy independence.” He had declared the United States “addicted” to foreign oil, yet dependence on Middle Eastern fuel continued.
Hurricane Katrina, and the lingering damage it did to oil pipelines and refineries, had pushed up gas prices, renewed fears of global warming and kept a firm thumb on the economy.