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, March 22nd: 

Association With Tar Sands is Reputation-Damaging: A prestigious German research institution is making waves by removing itself from research on the oil sands of Alberta. The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research was conducting research in tandem with the University of Alberta on biological means of cleaning up tailings ponds from oil sands development. But Helmholtz ordered a stop to the research this week because, according to a Helmholtz head of staff, “the work was seen as a risk for our reputation.” The scientific institute didn’t want its reputation to be tainted by association with work in the oil sands for several reasons, among them the growing “international furor over the energy industry and Canada’s environmental record,” as well as European aversion to tar sands fuel. This action backs up what European nations have already made clear as to their views on tar sands oil–they don’t want it. This should shed light on other aspects of the foreign policy surrounding the pipeline other than the U.S. relationship with the current conservative Canadian government (which may be on its way out)–the Obama should not take these views lightly when deciding whether or not to associate the United States with the dirty tar sands. Read here

The Media’s Responsibilities: The York News Times continues to publish great editorials on the Keystone XL pipeline. Greg Awtry delivers an excellent rundown of what truths can be found beneath TransCanada’s shiny messaging and PR ploys when the research is actually done. Among the many great lines of the editorial are two that we think are really powerful:

“Millions of gallons of benzene will be traveling just ½-inch away from our water supplies.”

“We find out that Nebraska’s own DEQ did not complete the “Risk Assessment” portion of their study before Gov. Heineman decided the route over the Ogallala Aquifer was fine after all, even though earlier he pleaded with the president and the secretary of state to not allow this to cross the aquifer, as did Sen. Johanns.”

In describing the journey the York News Times has taken throughout its five years of reporting on the pipeline, Awtry makes an appeal to other journalists in Nebraska to do the same. Rather than accept TransCanada’s statements at face value, the York News Times has done its research to find that there are many “dirty little secrets about dirty tar sands oil” that TransCanada had attempted to hide. Read the editorial here

“As Colorado Goes, So Goes the Nation”: Nationally known journalist David Sirota published a piece in this week’s Salon predicting that if we review the last few years of Colorado’s political experience, we could be seeing hints of “America’s potentially much brighter political future.” Sirota leads us through nine examples of how what used to be a reliably Republican, conservative state is now the initiator of progressive policies and campaigns. These examples spread across a wide range of issues—we find that “the home of Focus on the Family legalizes civil unions,” and passage of a state D.R.E.A.M. Act signal the end of “anti-immigrant Tom Tancredo” style politics. Anti-fracking activists dominate a state that has been known “oil/gas country.”  Colorado voters passed an initiative “instructing the state’s congressional delegation and Legislature to support a U.S. constitutional amendment to overturn the infamous Citizens United decision and regulate campaign spending” and another one to legalize marijuana. Sirota isn’t the only one to see Colorado’s political evolution as an indication that the times are a’changin. “Republican power broker” Dean Singleton predicts that Colorado will never go back to being a Republican state, and founding director and former president of the Pew Research Center, Andrew Kohut published an editorial in the WaPo today titled “The numbers prove it: The GOP is estranged from America.” Read here


Thursday, March 21st: 

Today’s Roundup is brought to you by Carolyn Nolte: 

Digging for the Truth: The latest environmental impact statement for the KXL has been revealed to be just as riddled with conflicts of interest as previous review documents on the project. Today, Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll published excellent research on the “contractor that produced the bulk of the report,” Environmental Resources Management (ERM), and found that the company has major ties to entities that will benefit from the KXL if it is built. To us pipeline protesters; this disguise may not come as a surprise. Andrew Bielakowski, ERM’s second in command on the report, was employed by TransCanada and consulted on other oil companies that “that could benefit from the Keystone XL project and increased extraction of heavy crude oil taken from the Canadian tar sands,” namely BP, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips. In addition to Bielakowski, other contributors to the report have conflict-of-interest. But how deep is this façade? Facing criticism, “The State Department appears to be responsible for the attempt to mask the ERM-TransCanada connection. When State first posted the redacted ERM filing, it was possible to digitally remove the redaction and read the ERM bios. But some days later, a new version of the filing was posted online in which the ERM bios had been scrubbed from beneath the redactions,” stated Kroll’s “Exclusive.” Of course, the State Department does not agree with critics, saying no bias (Kroll). Read here

Another Marketing Ploy Falls Short: Alberta, our Great Plains neighbor and home of the tar sands, has begun to market itself as “an environmental leader at the cutting edge of clean energy development.” John Cushman of Inside Climate News reports on what foreign policy experts have to say about Canada-U.S. performance on climate change goals—and how Alberta’s PR doesn’t exactly reflect reality. In this Sunday’s edition of the New York Times, the province purchased a half-page ad that states several reasons to support the KXL as well as the province’s “leading” work on climate change. In addition, the advertisement claims about 42,000 jobs for Americans during building and an additional 138,000 jobs “per year for the next 25 years.” Not only will Keystone XL provide Americans with jobs, according to the advertisement, it will also not “have significant impact on the environment.” But official statistics show that “Alberta lags the rest of Canada in controlling emissions, even as Canada itself is falling short of its promises.” The leading cause of Alberta’s run amok emissions is of course the production of bitumen from the tar sands. Cushman reports that the Keystone pipeline “saga” is seen by experts “as a failure of diplomacy on all sides” on actually getting the U.S. and Canada to take extensive steps on reducing carbon emissions. Whether or not better diplomacy could have improved environmental policies, the advertisement by Alberta is another public relations ploy that “as a measure of real progress on climate change “ states Cushman, “falls short.” Read here

Persist and Be Inconvenient: Fighting to protect one’s community is a global issue. Like our fight against Keystone XL, villagers in India also fight exploitation. They are fighting a nearby municipality’s goal of locating its dumping ground near their village. A petition to stop the location of the Anakapalle town’s garbage dump that would be “one kilometer away form the main village” has been dismissed. According to The Hindu, twenty villagers were arrested yesterday as they protested, but those remaining continued to hold back the tractor. What is the solution to dump’s location? “[M]easures like digging pits to deposit the garbage to avoid inconvenience to the [villagers] should be taken.” This devastating reality stinks familiar. Read here


Tuesday, March 19th: 

“Love Affair with Big Oil”: Mother Jones’ David Gessner today published a piece on his recent tour of Vernal, a Utah town that has had a “love affair” with Big Oil since the 1970s. A town that has been the site of traditional oil well drilling, natural gas drilling, and now tar sands mining, Vernal has gained from allowing its land to be opened up. But they have also lost. When Gessner asked people in Vernal “what exactly Big Oil has given them,” they say “jobs,” and then there’s the extra treats that various oil companies have thrown in to keep the community complacent, even enthusiastic. But another resident, Herm Hoops, who has lived in Vernal for about four decades, sees that the real situation isn’t that cut and dry. The jobs are mostly filled by outsiders, as evidenced by the license plates from Texas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming—not Utah. And while jobs in the oil sector have shot up, agricultural as well as tourism and recreation jobs have declined dramatically. Herm explained that he had “seen oil and chemicals foaming and floating down the Green River,” and an increase in “crime, prostitution, spousal abuse, and a culture defined by the twentysomething males who come to work the oil fields.”  Gessner ended his trip with a flyover of the land around Vernal. In his notebook, he described the land as “a geography of hopelessness.” Much like the promises made by TransCanada, residents of Vernal had been promised that the land would be reclaimed—but it hasn’t been, and it won’t be. Read here

Take Action: The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) continues to publish numbers about the wind industry’s performance in 2012. Today rankings were released showing how much electricity each state generates from wind—the key finding is the fact that Nebraska ranks 18th, far below our neighboring states and far below our potential. We share the “wind belt” with our neighbors, but while Iowa and South Dakota each get about 25% of their electricity from wind and Kansas and Colorado are both around 11.5%; Nebraska’s 3.7% sticks out like a sore thumb. As was in the roundup last week, 90% of Nebraskans have consistently supported our state investing in more wind. Action step: If you are one of the 90% that supports Nebraska getting more electricity from wind, write into your local newspaper—there is additional information here and here—and demand that our public utilities no longer linger at the back of the pack when it comes to wind energy. Read the AWEA report here

Unusual Coalition: Several of our best pipeline fighters are featured in this article by the AP, published today. While there is a flaw within the article (the number of people employed will be nowhere near 13,000—the State Department has the number between 5,000 and 6,000, while TransCanada themselves put the number at a few hundred four years ago before the battle really got underway), concerns about climate change, contamination to the aquifer, and property rights are described. Author Thomas Beaumont also illustrates the seemingly odd coalition we have built in Nebraska—highlighted is the truth that despite our differences, our group of “unlikely allies” has been brought together by shared concerns and a shared opponent. And, as noted by Zack Hamilton of the Farmers Union, “We are all similar than we may have thought.” Read here