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, September 21st

Kochs in the Tar Sands: One of the projects the Koch brothers have worked extremely hard on (when they aren’t busy trying to discredit climate science or bashing clean energy) is getting the KXL pushed through Nebraska. Indeed, the major group in Nebraska that has been pushing support for the pipeline is Americans for Prosperity, which was founded by the Kochs. We’ve known that the Kochs have a vested interest in the tar sands (going back 50 years), but we are now finding out exactly how far that interest goes. They have recently put up 220,000 acres of undeveloped tar sands up for sale, and they undoubtedly have more that they are holding onto. It is not certain who will take up the offer, but China has been grabbing up as much of the tar sands as possible, and it appears that the Middle East will soon have a stake in the resource. Read here

Not Good Neighbors: You may have noticed in the article in the Washington Post discussing Native people’s opposition to the KXL being “one of the last” obstacles for TransCanada that TransCanada claimed there was no law forcing them to work with the tribes. In fact, a company spokesman said: “We do it because we have a policy. We believe it’s a good, neighborly thing to do.” But that’s just not true. And neither are a lot of things TransCanada has promised. Perhaps at the top of this list should go to the lie that TransCanada is a “good neighbor.” Check out this “Timeline of TransCanada’s Transgressions” to find out just how “good” of a neighbor TransCanada has been.

Congress Fails Nebraska (& the entire U.S.) Again: In addition to the Farm Bill, another big issue for Nebraskans that Congress let fall was renewing the wind energy production tax credit. Nebraska has a lot to gain from wind, and the PTC has promoted a lot of growth in the industry, but according to analysts, it is unlikely that it will be renewed before elections. This uncertainty is already forcing companies in the wind industry to lay off thousands of workers from what a mechanical assembler calls “really, really good jobs.” Those who argue that the production tax credit should be allowed to expire without renewal say that it is time for the wind industry to stand on its own without government help. Well there are a couple of things wrong with this argument. First, American wind turbine producers are being undercut by “cheaper options from Asian competitors” that happen to be heavily subsidizing their wind industry. Second, the United States still heavily subsidizes other energy industries, like oil, which has been an established industry for over 100 years in comparison to the wind industry’s couple of decades.  Read here


Wednesday, September 19th

Strong Opposition to TransCanada: As we drew attention to yesterday, TransCanada officials are pretty confident that they will be building the KXL in the near future….which is what they have said since the public learned of them over three years ago. We’re not done fighting though, and neither are our friends down along the southern leg, who are still fighting even though the permit for that section has been granted. And even if the concerns of Nebraskans are ultimately overlooked by our public officials and our Governor gives TransCanada the “okay,” TransCanada still has some bargaining to do. TransCanada strategically avoided directly crossing most tribal land, but didn’t miss it all. And many tribal leaders on those lands are not too keen on giving TransCanada an easy victory. Read here

Failing Nebraskans: The Farm Bill expires in 11 days. The president of the National Corn Growers Assn. noted that Congress has known for 1732 days that this bill will be expiring on Sept. 30, 2012. Yet nothing has happened. And nothing is going to happen before Congress goes back to their home states for elections. They have officially decided politics is more important than our nation’s heartland. To top it off, Nebraska is one of the biggest Ag. states in the U.S., and two out of our three Congressmen totally failed to do anything on this very important bill. Now is the time to ask Lee Terry and Adrian Smith “why?” Even if they let it fail for political reasons, doing so was a terrible decision to make before coming home to “the good life” that has been defined by drought and crop failures this year. Fortenberry pushed hard to get this through, and we commend that, but the fact remains that there is no Farm Bill. Read here

Uncut: Yesterday we drew attention to Mitt Romney’s speech on a new type of class warfare–the “takers” vs. the “makers,” and his opinion that 47% of the American population really doesn’t matter to him. But that isn’t all Mittens talked about. He also spoke about the conflict between Palestine and Israel, and said he does not believe a two-state solution (the most popular proposal and one that the U.S. has backed) is not going to happen. We linked to a short snippet yesterday. Today, watch the full uncut video here  


Tuesday, September 18th

There is No Way to “Green” the Tar Sands: Shell has announced the first carbon capture and storage project for tar sands oil. Unfortunately, this step to curb the carbon emissions of tar sands production (which one CCS facility would not even come close to doing) is being used to justify expanding the exploitation of the tar sands further. Anthony Swift of the NRDC “does the math,” and finds that just one planned project expansion, the Jackpine mine, would completely undo any carbon saving that the CCS facility would provide. So would the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Check out the rest of the math here

Romney’s Class Warfare: A video has been released of Mitt Romney telling a group of donors that he isn’t concerned about getting the votes of nearly half of Americans because he sees them as freeloaders dependent upon the government to take care of their lives. This is no gaffe. It can’t be dismissed as a mistake, and Mittens isn’t trying to claim that he didn’t mean it. Ezra Klein takes a close look at the philosophy behind Romney’s statements, the philosophy that there are two classes in American society: a “taker class” that pays nothing to the government but depends on taxing the “maker class” for everything that they want. Klein notes that first off, this division isn’t true—of those who didn’t pay income tax, 61% paid payroll taxes at a rate higher than Romney pays, and 22% are elderly. But what Klein says is most striking is that the reason so many people aren’t paying income taxes is because of the tax cuts passed during the Reagan and Bush eras. And now, Romney is running on promising further tax cuts for the rich and cutting social services for the non-rich. Read here

A New Study on Tar Sands and Health: A new report was just released that details the correlation between refineries that work tar sands and increased community health problems. U.S. refineries that use tar sands have higher emissions of sulfur dioxide, a pollutant that further harms those who already suffer from disease weakened heart and blood circulation systems, as well as causing “reduced lung function, chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath, respiratory illness, deterioration of the lung’s defense systems, and the aggravation of cardiovascular systems.” Additionally, lower income people and minorities are most likely to be affected by these conditions because they are more likely to live near tar sands refineries. Read here

Monday, September 17th

Tar sands Propaganda: TransCanada has been doing its best to persuade us that the oil that will be flowing through its pipeline will be no dirtier than any other oil. Millions of dollars have been pumped into underplaying just how dirty tar sands is, but these lies are being undercut by an industry leader. Shell just submitted a document to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency saying that developing the oil sands project proposals that have already received provincial approval will “push levels of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide over new provincial [air emissions] thresholds.” Shell also found that if all these projects go forward, they threaten to “wipe out the caribou” and push nearly two dozen lakes over their “critical load” for acidity.  This reporting exemplifies why we have been pushing the State Department to consider the impact building KXL will have on the climate. Read here

TransCanada’s Lies: Alex Pourbaix of TransCanada said last week that he expects the KXL to win approval early next year. He and other TransCanada officials seem to think a change of route that totals to 20 miles longer than the previous route is good enough, that now the concerns of Nebraskans have been resolved. But the fact of the matter remains that the KXL is still in the Sandhills, and through the Ogallala Aquifer. TransCanada’s story keeps changing, and we feel that they have stumbled into yet another lie. First, TransCanada insisted it would be impossible to change the route, and cited huge costs associated with doing so as a reason for sticking to their original route. But now Pourbaix is saying that they were “happy to take the concerns” of Nebraskans into consideration and that “re-routing the pipeline didn’t really add to costs or time.” TransCanada is also claiming that the State Department wouldn’t let them go along the route of the Keystone I because it would have been too long. We have never seen anything coming out of the State Department saying this, and we are looking for a statement regarding this accusation. Read here

Concern over Water: Our nation has long lacked “a coherent approach” to handling water. With various agencies overseeing the countless issues dealing with water, there is much confusion and very slow progress when it comes to efficiently managing our ever more scarce water supplies. This year’s drought has gotten 85% of the population to say the “availability of ample clean water should be a top national priority,” and 64% to say they are “very concerned about the prospect of possible shortages of safe drinking water.” Over half of our nation’s fresh water goes toward the energy industry, and 64% of our nation is still in a “moderate to exceptional” drought. Water is life, yet it seems very few politicians will campaign on promises to ensure our nation’s water will be managed more effectively. If water was as big of an issue to elected officials as it seems to be for American citizens, we wonder if so many projects (like the KXL) would go forward. Read here