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.

Saturday, December 22nd

Renewables Weathering the 2012 GOP Beating: Despite the attacks on green energy by some in the GOP in this last year’s election cycle, renewable energies still had an all around successful year in 2012. Both the U.S. wind and solar sectors had their strongest years ever, with the most megawatts installed in 2012, pushing the percentage of electricity contributed by wind and solar up to 5% of total electricity generation. While that still isn’t anywhere near enough, the idea of a carbon tax has once again gained traction, and new ideas to promote renewables like clean energy funds and green banks are being used more. We need to do more to promote renewables, however. In Nebraska especially, we have the opportunity to play a major role in the development of wind energy. Ranking 4th in the nation in potential but only 25th in actual capacity means we need to step it up. Read here

Another Year of Climate Change: Another factor that could contribute to more development of renewable energy is the increasing presence of climate change in our everyday lives. Check out this video compiled by Mother Jones’ Climate Desk for a recap on the devastation climate change has wrought in 2012—environmentally, economically, and socially. The West became a “tinderbox,” with wildfires raging more intensely and more widely than ever before, the worst drought since the Dust Bowl covered 2/3 of our nation and is not yet over, and Hurricane Sandy set the record for lowest barometric pressure so far north in a region unaccustomed to hurricanes. These are just examples of climate change affecting Americans, but across the world people are feeling the pain of climate change. These three events have cost the U.S. over $150 billion so far, and incalculable damage in devastated livelihoods. The only way to stop it is by changing our energy consumption habits. That means more renewables (way more), drastically less coal, and no tar sands.

Silence Broken: The NRA finally broke its silence on the shooting of 20 children and 6 educators with a call for more guns and a tracking system of the nation’s citizens diagnosed with psychological disorders. NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre also rebuked our nation’s court system for not adequately punishing criminals, and video game producers for making video games that are too violent. The irony of this should not be ignored (considering the “violence” in video games is gun violence, and the U.S. prison population is absurdly high), nor should the “lockdown” nature of this proposal.  Read here and here

Still No Deal: Our Congressional leaders are going home for the holidays without having come to any agreement on how to stop from going over the “fiscal cliff.” Boehner failed to gather support for his “Plan B,” raising questions as to whether or not he can maintain his leadership status, and President Obama has floated a “contingency plan” because it’s doubtful that a major deal can be made. The contingency plan entails a measure to maintain the tax rates for income under $250,000, and keeping benefits flowing to the unemployed. Whether or not such a measure would pass is up in the air–both Obama and Boehner are hopeful that they will reach some sort of compromise. Read here and here


Wednesday, December 19th

Several accidents have already been reported tonight due to to blizzard conditions–drive safely BOLD Nebraskans! Weather updates are available here. We hope you are all sitting cozily indoors with hot chocolate and a blanket while you read today’s Roundup: 

On the Hill: There is a lot happening in Washington right now, but the issues garnering the most attention are the fiscal cliff and gun control. Today, President Obama announced the launch of a “gun violence task force,” which will work to address our nation’s struggles with gun violence through looking at laws on greater control on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. He also emphasized background checks for every gun sale, and improving the mental health sector.

Also on the Hill, negotiations over the ‘fiscal cliff’ continue, with House Majority leader Boehner seemingly leaving negotiations in order to put forth his own plan. Obama is asking for a tax increase on anyone making over $400,000 a year, while Boehner has only expressed interest in tax increases on those making over $1 million a year, of course linking this tax increase to a demand for major cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare. The fact that these negotiations are dependent upon linking tax increases for millionaires (those who make more money than 98% of Americans can even fathom) to major cuts to programs that most of those 98% of Americans either use or depend on is fundamentally unsettling. The costs that would be born by those affected by a tax increase on income over $1 million is not even comparable to the burdens that Social Security and Medicare recipients would bear.  Read here and here

Standing Together to Fight the Pipeline: The NRDC has put out a blog listing those who are opposed to the Keystone XL. These pipeline fighters include members of Congress, the EPA, scientists, and Nobel Laureates. It includes those whom we have had a close relationship with throughout this fight: farmers, landowners, and ranchers, as well as veterans and military officials, and Native Americans and those of the first nations of Canada. Others are included in the hundreds of thousands of us who are opposed to this pipeline. As another year of fighting the pipeline comes to a close and more keeps developing, we are heartened to know that we have so many who stand beside us in this fight to stop the KXL. Read here

TransCanada’s Safety Culture: We have of heard a lot of lies from TransCanada, but one that we hear most frequently is that the KXL will be “the safest pipeline ever built.” To back up this assertion, TransCanada cites their compliance of 57 safety measures (most of which also happen to be required by federal law anyway). We all know there are many reasons why the KXL won’t be a safe pipeline (period), but there are efforts that TransCanada could be making to make their pipeline safer. For example, the leak detection technology that TransCanada plans on using will allow almost 300,000 gallons of dilbit to spill out of the pipeline before the leak detection system will even notice the destruction taking place. While TransCanada would have us believe that this is as good as it gets, there is better technology–like that used on a pipeline over an aquifer in Texas which can detect 3 gallon leaks through an exterior monitoring system. To put that in perspective, that means this Texas pipeline’s leak detection system is 100,000 times better than the one TransCanada wants to use. Interestingly, TransCanada reps have said that that type of leak detection system will not be reliable in Nebraska, due to the high water tables of our aquifer. Yes, that is right, TransCanada does have the capacity to care about our high water tables…but only as far as it can help them avoid more expensive safety measures. A civil engineering professor from USC commented that no level of technology will ensure a safe pipeline, that perhaps the most important thing in guaranteeing safety on a pipeline is a “good safety culture.” Unfortunately, this is something that TransCanada desperately lacks, so much so that the company is currently undergoing an investigation for a shoddy safety culture. Read here