Archive: 02/2010

Buck Rogers on the Plains

Paul Olson
UNL Emeritus Professor

Speaking Our Peace Graphic

My parents didn’t believe in comic books or Big Little Books. They were frivolous, unchristian and expensive. In the age when Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel came to life (the 1930s), I had to bum books off my friends, read them at recess and dream the rest of the day of rescuing the world from evil. One of my favorite comics was Buck Rogers, a space warrior repeatedly forced to battle the villainous Killer Kane and his paramour Ardala. Fighting with Buck to save the world were Lieutenant Wilma Deering and Prince Tallen of Saturn.   

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The Dirt on 'Clean Coal'

HENDRIK VAN DEN BERG 
UNL PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS

Both the Bush/Cheney and Obama Adminstrations and the Republican and Democratic leadership in Congress have openly supported the concept of ‘clean coal’—or what is more precisely called carbon capture and storage (CCS). Billions of government dollars have already been allocated to funding test projects that will serve to develop new technologies that (1) remove carbon from the emissions of coal-fired power plants, plants that convert coal to synthetic oil, and other industrial plants that use coal as an energy source; and (2) store the carbon permanently underground. 

These technologies will, according to the coal lobby, make our most abundant carbon fuel ‘clean.’ CCS technologies thus simultaneously reduce global warming and our dependence on foreign oil. The coal lobby then continues to argue that, even though these new technologies are not yet available, spending taxpayer money on test projects and other types of CCS research justifies the construction of more familiar coal-fired power plants instead of more expensive alternative wind, solar or conservation projects because these coal-fired plants can be ‘cleaned up’ in a few years ‘when the technology becomes available.’

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James Hansen on Coal

James Hansen
Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Coal & Climate Disaster

Coal emissions must be phased out as rapidly as possible or global climate disasters will be a dead certainty… ‘Clean coal’ is an oxymoron. The clean-coal concept, at least so far, has been an illusion, a diversion that the coal industry and its government supporters employ to allow dirty coal uses to continue… Coal use must be prohibited unless and until the emissions can be captured and safely disposed of… For the sake of our children and grandchildren, we cannot allow our government to continue to connive with the coal industry in subterfuges that allow dirty-coal use to continue… If we want to solve the climate problem, we must phase out coal emissions. Period.

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Yes, We Have a Right to Healthcare

Hendrik van den Berg
UNL Professor of Economics

Since the beginning of the 2008 presidential race, healthcare has been the focus of election campaigns, lobbying efforts and political debate across the country. All this attention to what is perhaps our most pressing economic and social problem, though, has not brought us much closer to a solution.  

For a hundred years, political leaders have tried to provide healthcare for all Americans. Teddy Roosevelt tried at the start of the twentieth century, but failed to convince Congress and the voters to support healthcare legislation. Franklin Roosevelt was able to get Social Security, unemployment benefits, a minimum wage, deposit insurance, extensive bank regulation and other social legislation through Congress with his large Democratic majority, but he could not pass universal healthcare. President Truman tried again after World War II, but failed. Lyndon Johnson was able get Medicare through Congress—which provided universal healthcare coverage for everyone over 65—but he did not push for true universal coverage for everyone. Bill Clinton pushed for universal healthcare at the start of his first term in 1993, but quickly retreated in defeat. The Obama Administration has tackled the issue yet again, but (despite Democratic majorities in both houses) has only produced a weak bill that, while expanding healthcare to more people, falls far short of universal quality healthcare for all. 

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