Read today’s news from around the state and country. Each day in the Roundup we cover politics, always with a side of bold humor. We think politics should be fun, informative and encourage us all to take action.
Friday, August 24th
Tomorrow is the day for the Kerrey/Fischer debate. The debate starts at 4 at the Heartland Event Center, and we will be holding a press conference in the parking lot at 3:15. You’ll find us with a banner and wearing bright yellow shirts. We hope to see you tomorrow! Here’s your Roundup:
Ewing “Within Striking Distance”: For the past 14 years, Lee Terry has been representing the 2nd district—the only district that Obama won in 2008. He has easily won re-election in every race. But this time, he’s being taken to task. John Ewing is within “striking distance,” only 6 points behind Terry according to a poll done by a “conservative leaning organization.” It’s about time for Terry to be really challenged. His first 11 years of office, he did nothing more than name a post office. In his last two years, his mission has been to force the Keystone XL pipeline through. Ewing is hitting Terry on Rep. Akin’s comment about “legitimate rape,” tying Akin’s comments to a bill the Terry supported that identified rape as “forcible rape.” Needless to say, it’s time for Terry to get out. Read here
Last week the Tar Sands Blockade launched actions across Texas and Oklahoma to draw attention to TransCanada breaking ground. Construction has started, and the Tar Sands Blockade Team is looking for more to join their coalition of pipeline fighters. Check out pictures of TransCanada’s construction here. For more information on the Tar Sands Blockade, go here.
Thursday, August 23rd
This week, the GOP approved what has been dubbed “the most conservative platform in modern history.” And despite the fact that Romney’s campaign strategy has been to focus on the economy, his party’s platform has a lot of focus on social issues. Check out highlights here. Here’s your Roundup:
Unbelievable: Julia Trigg-Crawford’s court case was decided yesterday, and the verdict is disgusting. In a 15-word ruling sent from his iPhone, Judge Bill Harris dismissed Julia’s case, allowing TransCanada and other companies to seize private property and claim “common-carrier” status without ever having to prove that they would indeed be a “common-carrier” benefitting Americans. The U.S. judicial system has allowed a foreign oil company to use eminent domain to seize landowner’s property against their will. Protecting property rights is a founding principal of our nation, which makes yesterday’s ruling that much more disappointing. In the words of Julia, “there is no question the process is riddled with loopholes and flaws, and Big Oil certainly wants to keep it this way.” Read here
Not Real Energy Independence: Mitt Romney will unveil his energy plan today, showing his commitment to oil and gas yet again. He has already released the proposal, and in it are plans to expand offshore oil and gas drilling, and give states control over drilling on federal lands. He of course plans to approve KXL right away–after all, he has said he would build the pipeline with his own two hands. The secretary of energy under President Clinton criticized the plan, saying “we will never reach energy independence by turning our backs on homegrown renewable energy and better auto mileage.” Without including emphasis on renewable resources that we build ourselves and that would create jobs and a healthier nation, Romney cannot claim to be bringing our nation closer to energy independence. He can only truthfully lay claim to enriching oil companies at the expense of homegrown energy. Read here
Another Recession on the Horizon: The Congressional Budget Office reports that the U.S. is in for another recession if Congress allows Bush’s tax cuts to expire and severe budget cuts to come into effect. This has prompted the Federal Reserve to look at different tools it can use to help prevent the recession, but critics of Fed action say major actions shouldn’t be taken until after Congress has already allowed our nation to go over the “fiscal cliff.” Of course, the best scenario would be for Congress to not push our country into the abyss by failing to act, but lack of bipartisanship has already led to this Congress being the least productive since 1947. Who we elect in November could have major impact on Congress’s ability to act to prevent recession—if more intense ideologues are ushered in like what happened in 2010, Congress will likely have a more difficult time preventing a recession. Read here
Wednesday, August 22nd
The only debate that will be held between Bob Kerrey and Deb Fischer is just three days away, and we’ll be making a presence there. We encourage all you BOLD Nebraskans to make your way out to Grand Island for the debate, where we will hopefully hear the two candidates talk about the Keystone XL and “Fischer’s Loophole” that allows oil companies to take landowners’ property. We hope to see you there! Check out the details here. Here’s Your Roundup:
Slowing Down on Tar Sands?: A new report shows that tar sands production probably won’t be growing as fast as it was expected to 12 months ago. The reason cited in the report is that a surge in light oil production in North America is depressing prices. Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has already announced that it will reduce its capital spending on new projects and Suncor is going to slow down its projects as well. While commodity prices may have something to do with stymieing the growth of tar sands production, fierce opposition to tar sands pipeline projects surely has a role as well. CIBC World Markets analyst Andrew Potter said strategies for slower growth will be a good thing because he is skeptical that two pipeline projects (Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline and Kinder Morgan Canada’s TMX expansion) will ever be built. Read here
TransCanada Forced to Fix Safety Issues: Last year, TransCanada received a notice from the Canadian National Energy Board (NEB) saying that it was “non-compliant” with safety rules overseeing oil pipelines. Pump stations in two Canadian provinces were not equipped with “an alternate source of power capable of operating each station’s Emergency Shut-Down (ESD) system,” and the NEB ordered TransCanada to fix the problem. Naturally, TransCanada did not want to comply with the NEB’s request, saying that its pump stations were good enough (even though they have been the main sources of leaks up and down the line since Keystone I was built). The NEB did a re-evaluation, and came to the same conclusion: TransCanada does not have the proper safety standards in place on its pump stations. Another letter was sent to TransCanada just last week ordering that a plan of action be submitted by the middle of September. We’re betting these safety standards are not met in the U.S. section of Keystone I, and this is an important safety standard that needs to be included in the safety measures KXL will have to meet. Read here
Wasting Food: An American family of four typically throws away up to $2,275 worth of food each year, according to a report released yesterday by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Americans as a whole discard up to 40% of the food we buy every year, with food being wasted at various stages “from farm to fork.” According to various studies, most of this waste comes from a place we can all make a difference—our homes and stores. Poor regulation of the “sell by” and “use by” labels means food that is still safe to eat is thrown away. In order to look good for consumers, stores fill their shelves with produce that they will not get rid of before it goes bad. These practices and others are why food makes up the largest component of solid waste in landfills, while millions across the world go hungry. Read here
Tuesday, August 21st
A commercial fisherman talks about the deformed fish he had never seen in his younger years that are now in the Athabasca River, while a scientist who led the fight against acid rain has focused his energies on how toxins from tar sands extraction affects the water in the area–watch here. Here’s your Roundup:
Inequality: Most Americans have seen their wealth shrink and income stagnate over the past couple of decades, while also having the window opened wide to see how the rich live through watching reality shows like “Keeping up with the Kardashians” and listening to Mitt Romney speak (and here). Inequality between the rich and the rest has become a major issue that many economists say hurts the economy. It has also brought up the idea of increasing the marginal tax rate on the wealthiest Americans because the tax burden on the middle and lower classes is disproportionate to the tax burden on the wealthiest. Check out this infographic to see how lowering the top marginal income tax rate has increased income inequality in the U.S.
Good News: The United States’ carbon emissions have hit a 20 year low. This is good news, but it could be better. The Energy Information Administration says that this low point is likely caused by the “mild winter, reduced demand for gasoline, and a drop in coal-fired electricity generation because of historically low natural gas prices.” Burning coal emits about twice the carbon dioxide emissions that natural gas does: 2,000 pounds for every megawatt hour (mWh) to only 1,100 pounds. But scientists suggest that the U.S. reduce emissions to 350 to 400 pounds/mWh in order to “stabilize atmospheric concentrations.” And burning natural gas may emit a more harmful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide—methane. The most carbon efficient electricity generators, wind and solar, only make up 5% of the U.S.’s electricity generation. Dr. Jay Apt, director of the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center, believes that we will need government intervention to cut emissions to acceptable levels, saying that as we experience more extreme weather events, “there may emerge a consensus” to do something about it. Read here
PSC: Today the Public Service Commission will likely set the dates for a third round of public comments and a third public hearing on what criteria to use when determining the siting of an oil pipeline in our state. Petroleum advocacy groups have been trying to lobby the PSC to establish a narrow scope in its law, saying that PHMSA and FERC already have broad oversight. We are pleased with the PSC’s process so far. They have listened to public comments and have been very engaging. And we hope that the petroleum lobby doesn’t end up having its sway, considering it was PHMSA that had jurisdiction over the Enbridge tar sands spill in Michigan. Read here
Monday, August 20th
The time for warnings is over. Police in Lincoln have so far opted not to give tickets for watering violations, but having now responded to over 475 violations, that time is over. If you or someone you know lives in Lincoln, remind them to comply with the water restrictions. Here’s your Roundup:
Be a New Energy Voter: Energy has been a hot issue this election season, with President Obama touting wind energy in Iowa while also reminding voters of his support for the coal industry. Romney promises that the U.S. will be completely reliant on North American energy if he is president. Obama has capitalized on Romney’s opposition to renewing the production tax credit, and Romney has tried to gain supporters by saying he would approve KXL his first day in office. We hope energy will be a big issue in Nebraska elections as well, considering our state is rich in wind that we are not using, and many of our officials have sided with a Canadian oil company over Nebraska land, water, and landowners. Our New Energy Voter Guide will come out in the next couple of weeks; stay tuned so you can bring new energy to the polls! Read here
GOP Problems: Members of the GOP have been up to some shenanigans, and they aren’t so good for the party’s reputation. The findings of an FBI’s probe into a trip Republican lawmakers took to Israel last summer show that more than 20 lawmakers and senior aides took a swim in the Sea of Galilee, with Rep. Yoder of Kansas completely stripping down for the excursion at the site where Jesus walked on water. Meanwhile, in response to a question asking if he would support abortion in the case of rape, Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri said that pregnancy from rape was actually really rare. He said that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” finishing up his statement by saying that if pregnancy did occur, the punishment should be on the rapist. Clearly, this man is neither a doctor nor a woman. Read here
“Voter Voices Project”: NET is conducting a project to gather voters’ perspectives on issues they care about and would like to share with this year’s candidates. NET is conducting interviews with citizens in libraries across the state, from Lincoln to Scottsbluff, seeking “voter voices.” Check out this page to find out times and locations that interviews are taking place. From what we’ve been told it’s a short, easy process.
All this week, the Daily Kos will be having a blogathon to raise awareness to the impacts of climate change that are already happening right now. Make sure to keep checking the site throughout the week for great writing on climate change and its relationship to human rights, the economy, health care, and more. Our founder, Jane Kleeb, is one of the bloggers and she is up on Thursday at 2pm CT. Read here