[imgcontainer left] [img:Kerrey.jpeg] Former senator and governor Bob Kerrey won’t be running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Ben Nelson. [/imgcontainer]

Former senator and governor Bob Kerrey won’t be running for that open seat in Nebraska. Kerrey made the announcement Tuesday. The National Journal says this “all but assures Republicans will pick up the seat vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson.” 

Kerrey has spent the last decade in New York, where he headed the New School.

Democrats thinking of running for the seat include state Sen. Steve Lathrop and Chuck Hassebrook, who is executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs. (Hassebrook has written occasionally for the Daily Yonder.) “I am very seriously considering it and will make a decision in the next week,” said Hassebrook, who has served on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents for 18 years.

Republicans haven’t settled on their candidate. They include Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg.

• The Pennsylvania Senate Tuesday passed a bill that would authorize a tax on shale gas and set standards for drilling, the New York Times reports

Local officials and environmentalists said the law would endanger local ordinances passed to regulate the industry, which is booming in parts of Pennsylvania. 

“We have been sold out to the gas industry, plain and simple,” said Todd Miller, a town commissioner in South Fayette Township who opposed the legislation.

•Inside Higher Ed reports on a number of efforts across the country to increase the size of veterinary schools. There is a shortage of vets across much of the country, but state schools are raising money now to increase enrollment. 

• Walmart has developed labels for healthy foods.  Besides the labels, Stephanie Strom reports that Walmart has been working on other kinds healthy food projects that have won the praise of First Lady Michelle Obama:

Walmart has also been working with suppliers of national brands and private label products to reduce sodium, added sugar and trans fats in some 165 products it sells. Sodium, from a solution that is standard in meatpacking, for example, has been cut by more than 70 percent in fresh steaks, roasts and other muscle cuts of beef.

It has built 23 stores in places like Fort Stockton, Tex., and Stafford, Va., that serve “food deserts,” neighborhoods that lack full-service grocery stores, and it has worked with suppliers to cut the costs of items like reduced-fat peanut butter and fat-free salad dressing.

• We’ve been trying to keep up with the rural/urban votes in the Repulican primaries, but won’t be doing that today. The votes out of the states that held some kind of elections Tuesday (Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado) were just too thin.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum won these races, for sure, and the maps show that he won across each state. But very, very few people participated.

If you’d like to see the results, go here and click on the state that interests you. 

• The U.S. Department of Labor is worried about kids working at ag facilities. And for good reason, as The Pump Handle reminds us

Two 17-year-olds lost legs in an August accident at the Zaloudek Grain Co. in Kremlin, Oklahoma. Tyler Zander and Bryce Gannon were working together when Bryce’s legs became trapped in the auger. When Tyler rushed to help, his legs were pulled in by the machinery. Each boy lost a leg.

An Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation found six serious violations and imposed a penalty of $21,500. One of the violations was for failing to train the 17 year olds. 

•There is a move in several cities to reduce the amount of electricity they buy that is generated by coal. When a city makes a decision like that, it affects the rural area where the coal is mined. 

The L.A. Times reports this week from Panguitch, Utah, near both Bryce Canyon National Park and the Coal Hollow Mine, which supplies coal to a power plant three hours to the north. The city is under contract to buy power from this plant until 2027.

Now the city is looking for greener sources of power. The paper explores the conflicts between the environment and the economy — and between those who live in Utah for work and those who came there for peace and beauty. 

Food stamp use rose to a record in November, as more than 46 million Americans received aid. About half of the recipients are under 18 and 8 percent are over 60. 

Business Week writes that oil and gas drillers “are no longer content to frack — they want to super frack.” 

The magazine reports that companies such as Baker Hughes and Schlumberger are figuring out ways to “create longer, deeper cracks in the earth to release more oil and gas.” Some landowners say fracking has ruined water supplies and both the federal government and many states are considering the practice.

The more thoroughly rock is fractured, the more oil and gas can be recovered. “I want to crack the rock across as much of the reservoir as I can,” says David A. Pursell, a former fracking engineer who’s now an analyst at Tudor Pickering Holt in Houston. “That’s the Holy Grail.”

• Business Week also reports that the “U.S. is the closest it has been in almost 20 years to achieving energy self-sufficiency, a goal the nation has been pursuing since the 1973 Arab oil embargo triggered a recession and led to lines at gasoline stations.” 

There is more oil being pumped than any time in the last eight years and the country is producing so much gas, the federal government may approve a gas export terminal.

The U.S. produced 81 percent of its energy needs through the first ten months of 2011.

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