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.

Wednesday, January 9th:

Great Leadership: Today was the first day of the unicameral’s 2013 session, and we think it was a good one. Committee leadership was selected, and our senators were not swayed by the Nebraska Republican Party’s call to put partisan politics into our unicameral. Out of the 14 committee chairs and the two top leadership posts, 8 are Democrats, 7 are Republicans, and 1 is an Independent. Heath Mello was elected chair of the Appropriations Committee by one vote. Senator Dubas was elected chair of the Transportation Committee, while Senator Sullivan was elected chair of the Education Committee. Senator Lathrop was elected chair of Business and Labor; Senator McGill was elected to chair Urban Affairs, and Senator Karpisek now chairs General Affairs. Senator Campbell now heads Health and Human Services, and Senator Nordquist was re-elected to Retirement. We are proud of our state senators, and looking forward to working with the unicameral in 2013. Read more here

Preventing Gun Violence: President Obama and Vice President Biden are still pursuing an agenda to prevent gun violence, in the wake of the Newtown shooting. While the topic is politically divisive, Jon Adler, national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said it best when he stated “debating is not the action verb we need to protect our children.” He’s right. A balance has to be struck between respecting the Second Amendment and protecting Americans from out of control gun violence. And as is being suggested by the Obama administration, it needs to encompass many different factors—mental health, background checks, and gun controls. And Congress needs to respond to their duties to the American people by passing some sort of legislation that will actually address the issue rather than respond to the NRA’s lobbying efforts. Just this week, campaigners got freshman Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota to change her public position from “considering Obama’s measures to be extreme” to being open to some reforms. We need to hold our representatives accountable. Read here

Invest in Wind Now: John Crabtree of the Center for Rural Affairs was on tour in Norfolk last week presenting on wind energy, and why it only makes sense for Nebraska to invest heavily in it. Ranking fourth in the nation, Nebraska has wind potential, but the Nebraska Public Power District has not done enough to make it a big player in our state. Nebraska ranks 8th in the nation in energy consumption per capita, demonstrating that we can achieve much greater efficiency in our energy use. Furthermore, our heavy reliance on coal makes us vulnerable because of rising coal prices, and means we are losing out on the major economic benefits of developing wind power. Crabtree notes that “investments in wind energy systems and more energy-efficient technologies can provide more than half of Nebraska’s electricity needs by 2030…and such investments can lead to nearly 14,000 new jobs for Nebraska’s economy while saving businesses and communities a cumulative of $3.8 billion in electric bills over the next two decades.” Sounds like a great investment to us, both in economic terms and in terms of helping preserve the environment for future generations—addressing climate change has to include major decreases in fossil fuel consumption, and we can help make that happen. Read here


Tuesday, January 8th: 

No Safety Culture: Federal pipeline regulations governing how deeply pipelines must be buried under riverbeds (currently only 4 ft deep) are being reexamined. Prompted by Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus (whose home state of Montana experienced a 63,000 gallon spill into the Yellowstone River in 2011), federal regulators in the Department of Transportation conducted a study on flood related pipeline spills. They found that since 1993, 16 pipeline spills can be attributed to flooding, and that these 16 spills alone rang up a bill of over $200 million in property damages and cleanup work, and released over 2.4 million gallons of hazardous fluids. Only 300,000 of those gallons were recovered. While those spills account for less than 1% of all pipeline spills in the U.S. in that time span, spills into waterways are especially devastating because of the threat to drinking water supplies and increased environmental damage that can occur. In responding to the report, a spokesman for the Association of Oil Pipelines “cautioned against” any additional safety regulations, saying that pipeline companies would then have to divert funding from other pipeline safety measures. This response demonstrates the lack of a safety culture at pipeline and oil companies, and clearly shows that it is not safety that they care about. Read here

Enough Oil to Burn….Up the Earth: A recent report by the International Energy Agency claims that peak oil is a myth, and that our world has plenty of cheap oil to burn that will last us a few more decades. But there are several problems with this claim. For one, the “abundance” of oil that we now have is made up of unconventional sources that are more expensive to extract and more harmful to the earth than even” traditional” oil. These unconventional sources, like tar sands, are NOT cheap, and the apparently cheerful outlook that having enough oil for a couple more decades is a good thing only means we have enough oil to burn to cause irreversible climate change. There is also a chance that the IEA “fudged the numbers” to show that there is more in U.S. reserves than there really is—it wouldn’t be the first time.  Furthermore, peak oil is not the point where the world runs out of oil to find. It is the point where production reaches its highest point, thereafter plateauing and then starting its decline. Our world has already reached a “fluctuating plateau,” where we are paying more and more for hard to find oil (despite that oil being heavily subsidized in the U.S.). And while the fact that U.S.’s oil production will soon be the highest in the world is seen as a positive, it’s only true because oil production in the previous dominant countries like Saudi Arabia has declined. Read here

Letter to Obama: Yesterday, 70 climate activist leaders wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to remember his statements on climate change—that “it is not a hoax.” Although the last Congress was the new “do nothing” Congress, and pundits are guessing this one will be no different, we can still act as a nation on climate change. President Obama can direct the public conversation to climate change, and push for the United States to be a leader in tackling it. The letter notes that President Obama has the executive power to drastically reduce carbon emissions by cutting carbon pollution from existing power plants, increasing energy efficiency, and increasing the share of renewable energy we utilize. The letter also asks the President to reject the Keystone XL pipeline because of all the environmental reasons that we constantly bring up: its carbon footprint, its threat to water supplies, and the devastation it causes to the people and natural world that stands in its way. Join our “Dear President Obama” campaign, and send your own letter to the President to ask him to deny the Keystone XL pipeline.