On Nov. 8, the State Department of Corrections Director Scott Frakes reported to the Judiciary Committee that the state prison population has increased by 400 residents in the past two years. He also reported that the total capacity of the entire prison system will be reached after 150 more people are incarcerated.
The director presented no viable options for preventing this dangerous overcrowding event. He reported that the current staffing emergency will continue for at least four to six months, creating intense stress for residents and staff.
Recently, when faced with a similar crisis, the Republican governors of Iowa, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas aggressively led the development of a broad collaborative public-private task force. These efforts have resulted in creative teamwork to develop and implement effective reform ideas.
These governors obviously see the serious moral, safety and fiscal issues regarding the criminal justice reform needs in their respective states. These efforts mirror the Federal 2015 Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Summit. At this summit, leaders from diverse backgrounds created criminal justice reform called "The First Step Act," which was strongly supported by President Obama and President Trump.
The use of a bipartisan public-private task force provides Nebraskans a clear path out of the dangerous quagmire that our criminal justice situation has become. Gov. Pete Ricketts can follow these progressive efforts by fellow governors to lead similar efforts.
With term limits preventing his return to office, I have to question if our governor is a “ lame duck” leader or a strong leader for all Nebraska.
I feel a need to respond to Cal Thomas' article "Prosperity trumps impeachment" (Nov. 20). He touts how great our economy is doing and cites the Dow Jones topping 28,000 points.
Add the $1 trillion-plus tax cut that went to the already rich and wealthy corporations, and I am sure that the rich are doing great, but the nation?
If your household was falling deeper and deeper in debt while your house fell further into disrepair (think infrastructure), would you consider yourself prosperous? Our nation is now running a deficit of nearly $1 trillion a year. If that is prosperity, then prosperity is going to be the death of us.
During the 2016 election, Donald Trump promised to pay off the national debt in eight years. The way it's going, by the time he finished year eight, we would be $28 trillion to $30 trillion in debt. I am sure Cal Thomas is doing great, but as for the nation? Folks, we are not even breaking even.
City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick says his office often charges cases of vandalism, even with no property damage. And a note taped to a door is worthy of a charge of vandalism.
It seems to this ordinary, taxpaying citizen, the content of a note is irrelevant to the crime of vandalism. If the content of a note determines the crime, the issue appears to be freedom of speech.
Imagine Sen. Deb Fischer reporting to the Lincoln Police Department that an “I love Trump” sign was taped to her office’s glass door.
Imagine the LPD setting aside other work to collect evidence. Next, the city attorney files charges of vandalism. Then the entire show moves to the courtroom for a trial.
In reality, Senator Fischer did report to the LPD a non-threatening note taped to her campaign office’s glass door during the time of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearing. The note did not say “I love Trump.” It said “Deb hearts rapists.” Senator Fischer did not like the speech of that note.
The real case went to trial in the last few weeks. The verdict was “not guilty.”
Now imagine there is equality under the law, free speech still prevails and no special consideration was given to Senator Fischer.
Lincoln is not very handicapped friendly, unless you are rich or poor. I am in the middle. I cannot find any help because I'm not on Medicaid or have an abundance of money to hire someone. I miss many doctor's appointments because I can't find anyone to go with me.
I can barely walk, let alone get to church. It is very discouraging being handicapped in Lincoln. I'm too young, too rich to get Medicaid and too poor to pay $25 an hour, minimum 2 hours, to get help.
My fiance is a veteran as well. Although I agree that first responders deserve a day of recognition, one thing that comes to mind is whether that recognition should be equivalent to a veteran who is deployed several months at a time to foreign countries to fight for our country's freedom?
Not to take anything from our firefighters and police officers; however, they don't sign multiyear contracts to get stationed wherever the military deems fit. They get to choose when enough is enough. They have the option to resign whenever they see fit. They also get to go home to their families after their shift or shifts, where active duty veterans do not get that luxury.
In response to Roger Dinges's letter to the editor ("We must invest more in education," Nov. 8), an investment in education will result in lower unemployment rates in the United States.
According to the Institute for Higher Education Policy, low-income families are unable to afford 95% of college before scholarships and financial aid.
Providing free education from grade school all the way to college will give low-income families the opportunity to complete a four-year degree and go on to get high-paying jobs.
While having the government pay for all education may begin to get pricey, having the government pay for community college tuition and state college tuition may be an easy fix.
Having the government pay for full tuition to all state colleges does raise concerns, such as a higher cost of living because of the increased taxes needed to cover the cost.
While this could affect many, it might not be as big of a dent as some would think. With more citizens getting a college degree, it increases the chances of people earning higher incomes, making those taxes not as big of a deal.
My brother and I had the good fortune of attending the Wisconsin football game at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 16. I live just outside Madison, Wis., my brother lives in Des Moines, and neither of us had ever been to a game in Lincoln. Wow, what a trip it was. Extremely pleasant would be the best way to describe our short visit to your fine city.
Sure, our trip was made more fun because the Badgers came away with a hard-fought win. But, honestly, we were both extremely impressed by the warm and welcoming treatment we received consistently all across Lincoln, from gas stations to restaurants to walking through downtown on the way to the game.
We both proudly sported our Badger gear, of course, so I had a tiny bit of worry about verbal slams or worse coming our way.
It was all quite the opposite, really. I lost track of how many times someone noticed my Wisconsin sweatshirt and said, “Welcome to Lincoln. Enjoy your stay!” in one form or another. And sitting amidst thousands of Nebraska faithful in our seats was also amazingly stress-free, even when the game turned in favor of the Badgers.
If any of you ever visit Camp Randall in Madison, my hope is that you would have a similarly pleasant time. As you may have heard, we have a few issues with our Saturday gig at the Camp, mostly involving excessive drinking and vulgar chants from students. But we’re working on those things, and like Memorial Stadium, Camp Randall is a wonderful place to enjoy a big-time football game.
Madison is a fantastic city to visit, so please come when you can. Turns out, so is Lincoln. Thanks for a great time.
John Smalley, editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, Verona, Wis.
Commendably, Nebraska does have a lower incarceration rate than most of our contiguous neighbors, but all of us need to incarcerate fewer people for shorter terms. Every other western democracy imprisons significantly fewer people per capita than does even Nebraska, yet their crime rates are similar or lower, despite individual cases where a formerly incarcerated person reoffends.
A significant boost to correctional staff pay is a doable short-term solution to current understaffing. We need still better education and counseling in prison and stronger re-entry services so people don’t come back.
In the long run, we need second-look policies for the currently incarcerated, many of whom are not only safe to return to the streets but would be on the streets in other western democracies. We need shorter, more targeted, restorative -- rather than punitive -- sentencing. We need services to at-risk youth as early as preschool, and especially to the children of incarcerated parents, who are statistically most likely to end up incarcerated themselves.
The goal is to prevent crime from happening in the first place, not to punish people after the harm has been done!
I searched the internet for info on the pharmaceutical companies. There are more than 10,000 lobbyists in Washington making big, big salaries. According to the Washington Post, Washington is "teeming with lobbyists."
Do you really believe we will get a break in the cost of our prescription drugs? The pharmaceutical drug companies contribute to the politicians' campaign funds, and who knows how much money is stuffed in their pockets (legally or illegally) to keep their prices high.
They are no different than other big corporations that influence our politicians. Washington does what the big boys direct them to do. They run our country, not our elected officials. Many politicians land high-paying jobs with big corporations after they leave politics, or they have relatives who do.
Riley Johnson's article ("Bus route proposals unveiled," Nov. 14) concerning the study being done by the Nebraska Department of Transportation about the possibility of commuter bus service between Lincoln and Omaha was informative.
Johnson correctly mentioned that previous surveys show that people would prefer commuter rail service rather than bus service. Why isn't Nebraska DOT conducting a parallel survey about the rail alternative?
I'd like to knock down a myth mentioned in the article -- that commuter rail would be more expensive than bus. In some situations, that would be true where an entirely new rail line would have to be constructed, but this is not so from Lincoln to Omaha.
BNSF already has track in place from downtown Lincoln to downtown Omaha used for Amtrak passenger trains, which run 79 mph on this track, faster than motor vehicles on I-80.
The BNSF line from Lincoln to Omaha is under capacity due to a decline in coal trains as power plants switch to natural gas. I'm sure BNSF would welcome the additional rental payments from a rail commuter entity.
Lincoln has an underutilized Amtrak station, which sees trains only between midnight and 5 a.m. and could be used for the commuter trains. The situation is the same in Omaha. Rail service could also be extended between the Lincoln and Omaha airports.
Riders on trains would be much more comfortable than on buses. Features could include a lounge car with food and beverage service and Wi-Fi. And trains could run even whem snow closes I-80.
All of this probably won't matter since our governor is anti-public transportation. Nebraskans will probably have to wait until he's out of office to see improved public transportation in Nebraska in any form.
President Trump's inflammatory rhetoric filled with his usual fact-checked lies during his rallies inspires mean and hateful behavior among his supporters which is obvious from their chants like "Lock her up," and he gleefully cheers them on.
History has clearly shown that such demagoguery carried out unchecked by a political leader on routine basis can lead to mass hysteria with disastrous consequences for a whole lot of innocent human beings.
I hope that an overwhelming majority of my fellow citizens will do all they can to avoid such a tragedy happening in our wonderful democratic republic.
Most of us who call ourselves Christians would cite Jesus's teachings as the measure to stand as a person of faith. We should judge political officials by those teachings as well. If they would be found wanting, we should not support them but reject them as the office holders.
I have looked at Jesus’s teachings and checked how the actions of President Trump measured comparably. I call upon Christians to follow where this leads.
Jesus commanded "Feed the hungry." Trump cuts food stamps budget while giving tax cuts to the rich.
Jesus commanded that strangers be treated as brothers. Trump puts them in cages on borders and chases others off with armed forces.
Jesus said "Love your enemies." Trump publicly hints at hate of other races and belittles political opponents.
Jesus taught, "You have heard: Do not kill, but I say anyone who is angry with a brother must be brought to judgement." Trump attacks all who offend him.
Jesus taught "If a man looks at a woman lustfully, he commits adultery with her." Trump: proclaims it’s all fun and games and whatever a man does to a woman is OK.
Jesus commanded let your word be a yes or no. Trump proclaims lies, that he denies or enhances if need be.
Jesus spoke to a multitude of moral issues taking some very high positions. Trump’s actions seem just the opposite. It seems clear that one can not be a follower of both.
As the world shifts from an old energy model to a new paradigm, Nebraska should take the lead. It is time (actually, it's long overdue) for all governments in Nebraska to take energy efficiency and clean energy seriously.
Any new public building or any remodeling of a public building should be required to save taxpayers’ money by being made energy efficient and be powered by at least 50% renewable energy initially. Then, every five years, the renewable requirement should be increased significantly.
Elected officials ought to be good stewards of our tax dollars. Energy efficiency and clean energy protect the environment and the health of the public. Private donors, as well, should focus their efforts on making public buildings sustainable.
The University of Nebraska recently announced $480 million of construction, renovation and improvements, the majority of which will be paid with donor money. Many years ago, an NU regent said something to the effect of: If the university keeps accepting the gifts of more buildings, we will go broke.
He did not literally mean this, but the point was well taken. All donated buildings have to be heated and cooled. That’s why the university and other public entities need to husband donations by reducing the operating expenses by building efficiently instead of building wastefully.
Donors who fund solar power on buildings give a gift that keeps on giving (by reducing electricity bills) and this benefits taxpayers.
LB704 (providing for a request for proposals for renewable energy for state-owned buildings and a study regarding state vehicles), sponsored by Sen. John McCollister, was introduced in January 2019, but the Government, Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee chaired by Sen. Tom Brewer has not sent LB704 to the full legislature. LB704, or something similar to it, should get a yes vote from every senator who claims to be fiscally conservative and/or environmentally friendly.
How might a local government fund such a remodeling project? Our public power districts are not subject to property taxes and instead make payments in lieu of taxes. Those payments could be used to jump-start energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Such investments in efficiency will help the counties save money. If this is done, our publicly owned utilities could avoid the expense of building new power plants.
Fortunately, some progress is being made. For example, many schools in Nebraska use geothermal energy. The remodeled Douglas County-West Campus does, as well. The Lincoln Police Department Center Team Station and UNL Animal Science Complex have solar energy. Nebraskans for Solar’s solar schools project, funded by a Nebraska Environmental Trust grant, is helping K-12 students learn about solar energy.
Additionally, UNO’s Mammel Hall earned the Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating for its commitment to sustainability. All new public buildings in Nebraska ought to obtain a LEED rating or Green Globes certification (a similar sustainability certification).
Some Nebraska public schools are experimenting with wind energy, and Northeast Community College is training wind energy technicians. The growth of energy efficiency and clean energy will create new, local, well-paying jobs.
Nebraska should no longer have to depend on coal and natural gas from outside the state. We can be self-sufficient by tapping our tremendous wind potential as well as our solar prospects, all while creating local jobs and a stable economy. Nebraska taxpayers should demand that their public servants make a concerted effort to provide for a clean, healthy and less expensive energy future.
There are several significant concerns with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s new drug proposal, H.R. 3 or the Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019.
While this legislation aims to reduce the price of prescription drugs, the reality is that H.R. 3 would bring far more disruptions that we can’t afford. Above all, H.R. 3 is the beginning of a socialized health care system masked in the name of progress.
H.R. 3 would give the federal government the power to impose price controls on 250 of the most common drugs. This measure intends to bring down costs, but consider the implications of this type of government control.
Importantly, these drug prices will be determined by comparing prices to those of other countries – countries with socialist-run health care systems, many of which do not operate with the innovation and free-market approach that the U.S. does.
If companies cannot comply with these price controls, the federal government will impose substantial penalties that could include a tax of up to 95 percent of their annual gross sales.
This sets up a dangerous precedent that will be difficult to recover from. If H.R. 3 is allowed to pass, we will witness a new level of government overreach that also threatens patients and access to critical drugs.
On top of this strict government control, Pelosi’s proposal would create far-reaching impacts that would threaten critical research fields and our entire economy.
The biopharmaceutical sector currently supports more than 14,600 jobs in Nebraska. This proposal could also permanently delay the introduction of new medicines, which are critical to advancing treatments and even cures. Beyond this, Pelosi’s plan could lead to the loss of more than 2,600 jobs in Nebraska and more than $740 million in annual economic output for the state.
Lowering the prices of life-saving drugs is a critical goal and one that we must continue to take steps toward achieving in Congress. However, Pelosi’s proposal will not bring the change we need.
Using price controls, shutting down companies, and threatening critical research will hinder the introduction of new medicines and result in drugs becoming scarcer. Under this reality, drugs will become harder to access and prices could skyrocket.
Instead of pursuing Pelosi’s drug plan, we should support market-oriented ways to achieve lower drug costs. Americans deserve to pay fair prices for the medicine they need, plain and simple. Only through market-based reform and innovation – not socialism – we will achieve this goal.
"The Report" is a captivating movie. Nothing in it – from the government-sponsored cruelty experienced by captives depicted in the torture scenes to the government-sponsored intimidation experienced by a diligent government employee – was fun to watch. But every minute of it held my attention.
I am a U.S. citizen, a taxpayer, and a 9/11 victim’s family member. I consider myself a well-informed and ethical individual. Yet "The Report" opened my eyes by describing exactly what the U.S. government did after 9/11 in my name and on my dime.
Consider the popularity of the TV series "24," which enthralled audiences across the U.S. in almost exactly the same time period depicted in "The Report." "24" became the longest-running US espionage/counter terrorism-themed TV drama in history, winning a Golden Globe and multiple Emmys.
However, the way "24" depicted torture was so problematic that a general and a team of military and FBI interrogators met with the producers to tell them the show was promoting illegal behavior that was hurting the training and performance of real-life soldiers.
Nearly two decades later "The Report" takes the audience to a similarly fraught circumstance as "24," but with two major differences: "The Report" is a true story, and in the real world torture doesn’t work.
Surprisingly, the scenes involving torture are actually not the most disturbing or compelling scenes in "The Report." The audience will find its squeamishness tested far more dramatically by the exasperating difficulty real-life U.S. Senate staffer Dan Jones encounters in getting the Intelligence Committee’s own study of the matter into the public eye.
This is not what I ever expected to happen in my lifetime, much less in my name.
"The Report" is as difficult to watch as it is riveting. From the very first scene the audience is drawn into Jones’ world, working long hours, making tough choices and being thwarted at every turn. His frequent encounters with gross injustices and unanswered questions make the story more authentic.
The most important difference between an enormously popular fictional TV series and a shocking but true film about real events is that one can be allowed to live only in our imagination, while the other must take its rightful place in our shared history.
And our shared history is shameful. Despite international humanitarian law or fundamental ethical standards, the CIA brazenly used the euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques,” (EITs), to camouflage the crime of torture and then did it repeatedly, even when it yielded no actionable intelligence after dozens of trials on the same prisoner.
“If it works, why do you need to do it 183 times?” That’s the question Sen. Diane Feinstein asks about why Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the alleged mastermind of 9/11, was waterboarded repeatedly, yet never gave any useful information.
After 9/11, I wanted justice. Instead, I got inexcusable and utterly counterproductive cruelty.
Jones mirrors my sentiments precisely when he says, “They claim they saved lives, but what they really did was make it impossible to prosecute a mass murderer. Because if what we did to him ever came out in a court of law, the case is over.”
After I saw "The Report," I witnessed the opening motions of the military commissions trial of the five men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks, including Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, in person at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. I sat in the courtroom knowing that the trial will likely go nowhere, because 18 years after my sister-in-law’s murder, just as Jones predicted, the entire case is as risk due to the government’s own actions in using EITs.
Yet the court case continues, year after excruciating year, wasting billions of dollars at my expense and in my name. Yours, too.
"The Report" is a must-see film, not because it makes a case for questioning EITs (which it does) or because it causes you to question our government’s integrity for the first time (which it probably does not).
It’s important because it is a piece of actual U.S. history, recent and still raw in the minds of not just me and my family, but millions of people throughout the world. A history that we in this country must learn from lest we are ever tempted to repeat.
On the heels of the second annual Symposium of the Institute for Human and Planetary Health, 11,258 scientists in 153 countries released a report warning that the planet “clearly and unequivocally faces a climate emergency.”
Among the goals required to address the emergency are a shift to a plant-based diet for all and the implementation of regenerative agricultural practices. I would add that we also need to re-localize our food systems.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has informed us that by 2030 we must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 45%. Consider what that means for your daily life -- traveling half as much (other than walking or biking); buying half as much "stuff" as we do now; heating and cooling our homes half as much; cutting emissions from our diet by half. The scope and impact of these proposed changes are difficult to contemplate.
The fact that the human diet was included in the policy goals demonstrates that what we eat matters in the context of the environment. Of the 48 tons of greenhouse gases attributed to each U.S. household annually, food is responsible for 17% of the total (8 tons).
Raising animals for food is estimated to be responsible for up to 50% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Factors leading to the high carbon footprint of a hamburger include the fossil fuels utilized in producing the fertilizer and pumping the irrigation water to grow the corn that fed the cow, emissions that result from land conversion and methane (a global warming gas) released from the animals’ digestion and manure.
These foods also often require energy-intensive processing and transport over long distances before landing on our plates.
The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that if all Americans eliminated just one quarter-pound serving of beef per week, the reduction in emissions would be equivalent to taking 4 million to 6 million cars off the road. Eliminating meat and dairy entirely, a vegan diet, has the lowest carbon footprint of all and can cut your personal carbon “foodprint” by more than half.
What we eat impacts our health directly. Diet is the most important health influence. Diets based on whole-plant foods increase life expectancy and reduce the lifetime risk of all chronic diseases.
What we eat also impacts our health indirectly through effects on the health of the planet. Humans are completely dependent upon healthy ecosystems to feed, clothe, and house ourselves.
As temperatures rise, so do sea levels. These disruptions, along with more intense weather events, are changing what we can grow, where we can grow it and how much we can grow. In the face of climate change and a degrading environment, our health will suffer from extreme heat, agricultural failures leading to food shortages, issues with water quantity and quality and emerging infectious diseases like the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
Eating a plant-based diet will likely not be a popular idea with many Nebraskans. Success has long been measured by the amount of meat on the table. Cultural norms, and valid concerns for our economy and farmers’ pocketbooks, make it wise to thoughtfully use ruminant livestock to regenerate rapidly depleting soils while still providing an important revenue source for farmers.
Personal choice in this instance is powerful. It will require sacrifice, but the simple truth is that change will occur one way or another. Either we will continue with “business as usual” and experience runaway climate change, leading to a complete dismantling of our civilization via food and water shortages and the accompanying civil strife, or we will face these issues with the sobriety and urgency that they deserve.
We will mobilize to make the required changes and maintain a habitable planet for ourselves and our children.
We have the opportunity to create policies that will get more farmers back on the land growing food in a regenerative way. Such policies will help to mitigate climate change and to create local, equitable food systems that provide health-promoting, whole-plant foods. We can realize the vision of the Institute of Human and Planetary Health -- ”a world in which human activity supports the health of the planet on which human health depends.”
It is time to seize those opportunities. The question remains -- will we?
Climate change is an existential threat -- a true life-and-death threat. Reality is that the climate is changing our weather and environmental conditions in every region, as well as casting an ominous shadow over all aspects of human life on earth.
Climate change ultimately affects the health, safety and security of all the world’s inhabitants -- all humans, all animals, all plants, all life on earth. Ultimately, the question before us is this: What sort of future do we want our descendants to experience? Do we want a world with rising tides, greater weather variation and severity, compelled migration of peoples suffering climate disasters, or a world where countless species of plants and animals are erased from the face of the earth? Not me. We can do better. We must do better!
Last spring the stark reality of our ever-warming climate was painfully demonstrated in Nebraska. Disturbingly, we recall the heavy rainfall and rapid snowmelt triggering massive flooding inundating countless homes, farms and communities in our state. The cities of Fremont and Valley became islands.
Norfolk was forced to evacuate a third of its residents, and the Platte River swelled to “historic proportions.” Accordingly, Gov. Pete Ricketts declared a state of emergency to counter “the most extensive damage our state has ever experienced,” at a cost of $1.3 billion.
Summer still followed spring, but the weather did not get better. July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded on our planet and the 415th consecutive month with above-average global temperatures. At both poles, sea ice retreated to its lowest extent since first recorded in 1979.
The concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere ballooned to over 410 parts per million -- an increase of 100 parts per million since 1960. Such a rapid rate of carbon dioxide growth is estimated to be 100 to 200 times faster than the warming that occurred after the last Ice Age.
Moreover, a robust 1,500 page report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services details how the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20% or more in the last hundred years.
The report, put together by hundreds of scientists from all over the world and approved by 131 countries (including the U.S.), concludes that 1 million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction. Repeat: extinction!
How many keystone species are in this slow-moving apocalypse that is picking up speed? This is scientific truth. It’s not an alternative fact we merely sweep under the rug, pretending it will go away. All the discussion of how we ought to discuss the problem has its role in combatting climate change, but the very sad truth is we are running out of time.
Instead of immediate action when confronted with this grim picture, we are paralyzed with indecision. Not paralyzed over differing potential solutions to this existential problem but paralyzed by denial that a problem even exists at all. The science is clear: Climate change is absolutely real and it’s now.
It is also clear that climate change is more politically polarizing than any other issue in America. While we are currently seeing a wave of enthusiasm and support for new and comprehensive climate plans such as the Green New Deal on one side, the issue has fallen to a level of least importance and even ridiculed on the other side. In the Nebraska legislature, I know from painful experience, that climate change bills gain absolutely no traction.
What would appear to many Nebraskans, and virtually the rest of the world, as a cut-and-dried issue in desperate need of a remedy, has engendered a degree of political polarization unlike any issue before. According to Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, “Your political party is the greatest indicator to your view on climate change – more than race, age or gender.”
It is precisely this expansive divide on this critically important issue that necessitates further efforts to communicate the legitimacy and gravity of climate change to Nebraskans as well as all Americans. Simply put, the jargon of climate science, with complicated terms such as “decarburization”, “negative externalities” or “regenerative economic outcomes” holds little meaning to the average person and pitifully fails at inspiring the kind of action we desperately need.
The language we use and how we frame this issue will be absolutely crucial as we continue to communicate climate change to a broader public audience. Unfortunately, the truth is that most people are unlikely to be moved to action unless they experience personally the damage being caused.
It’s ironic. In the week that President Trump announced that he would withdraw United States support from the Paris Climate Agreement, 11,000 scientists in 153 countries declared a climate emergency. They warned that “untold human suffering” is unavoidable without huge shifts in the way we live.
While we lack a credible renewable portfolio standard for our entire state, which I hope to change during the next legislative session, we absolutely must build on the foundation laid recently by Omaha Public Power District’s announcement of going 100% carbon-free. But, time is short.
It is imperative that all Nebraska utilities are committed to eliminating emissions on an accelerated timeline. For Nebraska, the key to reducing our emissions comes in the form of solar and wind energy with battery back-up. While we may not have the intense direct rays of sun found in the Southwest, Nebraska has the 3rd best wind energy generating potential of any state. Embracing the potential of wind and solar in Nebraska will enable us to not only do our part in the fight against climate change, but to establish a safe, secure and sustainable future for all Nebraskans.
Fortunately, in 2019 as technology has continued to develop, moving towards renewable energy is not only environmentally-friendly but cost-effective and economy-boosting. And we know that doing nothing now will cost us billions as we “clean-up” after ever more frequent weather disasters.
According to Lazard’s comparison of the unsubsidized costs of energy, wind energy now costs the least of any alternative or conventional energy sources at $29 per megawatt hour. Wind, along with the rapid reduction in costs of utility-scale solar power to around $40 per megawatt hour, are both more cost-effective now than coal at $60 per megawatt hour. With over 60% of our state’s electric energy being provided by coal hauled in from Wyoming, the affordable low cost of renewable energy should be very welcome to all Nebraskans.
Moreover, a strong commitment to the widespread implementation of wind energy has the power to revitalize communities across our great state by boosting the economies of agricultural communities and creating new jobs. Simply put, solar and wind energy are cash crops.
Nebraska farmers have an immense opportunity to lease portions of their land for the installation of wind turbines and receive money in return. In fact, landowner lease payments in 2018 amounted to $289 million across the United States.
In Nebraska, landowners received between $5 million and $10 million in land lease payments, and state and local taxing entities received property tax payments of $8.5 million. This additional income provides stability for farmers and ranchers by helping them to offset decreases in farm revenues and reduces property taxes which all rural residents should appreciate. The creation of nearly 4,000 stable high paying jobs is also a very positive benefit for rural Nebraska.
Apart from our desire to expand renewable energy in Nebraska, there are some promising proposals to reverse global warming. According to the New York Times Bestseller, Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken, there are 100 ways to reduce our CO2 and carbon emissions. These solutions reside in energy, agriculture, forests, industries, buildings transportation and more. The book is an optimistic blueprint that should guide us as we overcome fear, confusion and apathy concerning climate change.
The history of our great nation is replete with crises that have required the coalescence of a robust, single-minded response from our government. The Civil War, the first and second world wars, the Great Depression and the Manhattan Project.
Even the space race that culminated in one of humankind’s greatest accomplishments: walking on the moon. These are the watershed moments of American history where, instead of succumbing to frozen inaction, we rose to the occasion with united and committed action. This life-threatening crisis we now face is of an even greater magnitude and should compel nothing short of the same degree of dedication and commitment that Americans have demonstrated throughout our history. It’s essential that we marshal all of our national resources to combat climate change before manageable solutions are beyond reach.
Our movement is not defined by numbers. This essential movement is defined by people who are willing to stay committed to a cause over a long period of time and keep going. Let’s stay committed! MAGA –make America GREEN again.