Nebraska boos proposed Tar Sands XL pipeline

People rarely boo when they go to church, but that's what happened in September in Nebraska. Fans of the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football team are known as the most polite but passionate supporters of their team of any sports franchise in the country. Passionate, in that they've sold out every home game since 1962. (Think about that. Nearly fifty years of sold out home games, in good times and bad. Most marriages don't last that long.) Polite, because they stay to the end of every game and applaud the opposing team for coming out to play, even for hated rivals like Texas and Oklahoma. They even cheered for Texas running back Ricky Williams with chants of "Heisman!" when he had a career day against them in the late 1990s. Outside of places of worship, few places on Earth exist where people express their fervor as openly and loudly in a positive way on a regular basis. That makes what happened at a home game in September all the more remarkable. A highlight reel for Nebraska's 1978 team played on the mammoth Huskervision videoscreen over the scoreboard, bookended by the logo for TransCanada, the builders of the proposed XL pipeline through Nebraska. Fans began booing at the first appearance of the logo, and booed louder at the end. It made no difference that images of their beloved 1978 Huskers were caught in the hail of jeers. The proposed Transcanada Keystone XL Pipeline would transport massive amounts of oil harvested from stripmining tarsands in Alberta, Canada down through the Midwest to refineries in Texas. The pipeline has come under fire because the tarsands are an especially dirty source of fossil fuels, both in carbon emissions and in terms of the immediate poisonous impact of the process by which it is mined. Oil companies extract the thick, gooey tar from the sands in an open pit process requiring an intensive use of fresh water and extra energy to extract the oil from the sand. At a time when we should transition to clean, renewable forms of energy, the Keystone XL Pipeline would deliver a dirty fuel and increase our reliance on oil. In Nebraska, the proposed pipeline would be routed through a major aquifer and go through hundreds of miles of rich farmland. Leaks would potentially poison both the farmland itself and the water supply for thousands, costing millions in damages and lost jobs. After the strong crowd reaction, the University of Nebraska ended its sponsorship agreement with TransCanada. Legendary former coach Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, now serving as the university's athletics director, stated: "We have certain principles regarding advertising in the stadium such as no alcohol, tobacco or gambling advertisements. We also avoid ads of a political nature. Over the last two or three months, the pipeline issue has been increasingly politicized. Our athletic events are intended to entertain and unify our fan base by providing an experience that is not divisive." Here's hoping that the State of Nebraska itself follows suit.

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