‘Every home a power station’: RFK Jr.’s energy vision

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. received thunderous applause Wednesday when he laid out his vision for energy production and infrastructure during a speech at EarthX in Dallas.

His speech took an approach to environmental policy rarely heard in discussions of the issue in the mainstream press, with Kennedy opening by noting that Americans were rightly wary of mandatory “top-down environmental policies… because of the COVID (lockdowns).”

“I believe in the existence of climate change, but I don’t think people need to think like me to cooperate with me,” he added.

Then he gave an example. Early in his career, he recalled working with fishermen on the Hudson River, whom he believed were Republicans. At the time, there were concerns about pollution from various industrial facilities having a detrimental effect on the river. Kennedy said fishermen were interested in keeping the waters they fished clean and protecting the health of the fish on which their livelihoods depended, but that they “felt alienated from the environmental movement.”

Kennedy organized the fishermen into the first chapter of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a now national water conservation organization he co-founded. The group sued Exxon for flushing the holds of its oil tankers into the river and using water from the Hudson for their refineries. Exxon later paid $2 million in fines and ceased the offending activities.

He then noted that many people feel the way Hudson fishermen did before they found a place in the environmental movement through the Waterkeeper Alliance. He then denounced “carbon fundamentalism,” which he defined as an environmentalist ideology that focused excessively on eliminating carbon emissions, and as alienating people who had joined the environmental movement to fight ocean life and other causes. to protect.

“Eliminating carbon emissions won’t matter if the aquifer dries up… or if we don’t restore depleted, poisoned soil,” he said.

Kennedy then turned to his belief in free markets. This was a point he addressed in detail, and it was well received by those present.

“We can make energy by burning prime rib if we want to,” Kennedy said, drawing laughter from the audience, but then noting that this would deprive the country of “cheaper, better alternatives.”

He extended this analogy to the current state of American energy production. He denounced government regulation and direct and indirect taxpayer subsidies for supporting the fossil fuel industry, which he said could not compete with renewables in a completely free market.

“True free markets promote efficiency, they eliminate waste, and pollution is waste,” the presidential candidate said.

Kennedy supported this point by stating that while energy from fossil fuels may seem cheaper on the surface, the cost of cleaning up its negative impacts is much greater. He pointed to the decimation of the “historic majesty of the Purple Mountains, Appalachia… home to the richest ecosystems, where bluegrass music was born, where Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett roamed… where 500 of the highest mountain peaks in these areas have been flattened.”

His comment was in reference to modern forms of coal mining that involve blowing off the tops of mountains to extract coal rather than using manpower to dig through the mountains.

He also noted that most American children will never have a “groundbreaking American experience where they can go to (a fishing hole) and catch a fish and take it home to eat” because of mercury pollution and other toxins in most waterways.

Kennedy also spoke about air quality and the various personal health impacts people experience from pollution.

“Environmental damage is a shortfall in spending,” he said, noting that while the government has historically supported polluters so that consumers save money, “you end up saving money in one pocket and paying out of the other.”

He then focused on breaking down regulatory barriers, which he believed could help Americans make money in some areas while combating power outages. He called for a change in state regulations, which, for example, currently do not allow people with solar panels to sell the excess energy their homes produce back to power companies indefinitely at market prices.

“(We can) turn every home into a power plant … a small business,” Kennedy said.

He concluded with a call for a major overhaul of America’s energy infrastructure by unifying the nation’s power grid and building deep-sea power lines so that electricity produced at wind farms in remote parts of the country can reach urban centers where it is needed.

Kennedy cataloged a variety of places where government infrastructure projects had lowered costs and opened up new industries to ordinary people. These included the Erie Canal, which reduced shipping costs, opened markets for agricultural products in the Midwest, and made New York a shipping hub. He also identified that DARPA, the forerunner of the Internet, revived interest in personal computers in the 1990s and that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 cut the cost of long-distance telephone calls, once a luxury, to zero after incentives were introduced. to build that infrastructure.

He promised a potential Kennedy administration would build the infrastructure to do the same for energy production.

“We built the Internet and the cost of information dropped to zero. … That’s what will happen for (energy) when we build a unified national grid,” he said.

The crowd at EarthX, a multi-day conference of environmentalists at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, would, like Kennedy’s speech, surprise those unfamiliar with it. Despite what you might expect, there were no tie-dye shirts or long braids. The visitors to the event consisted mainly of well-dressed, well-groomed men and women. Many were investors trying to network and find environmentally conscious businesses. The attendees The Dallas Express I spoke with were from outside Texas, including some visitors from Colorado and Florida.

Before his speech said DX spoke with Kennedy about his plans for clean water in Texas. Clean water is an issue Kennedy often discussed during his campaign, and Texas has long had a problem with potentially carcinogenic herbicides and pesticides such as glyphosate and atrazine found in the state’s water supply. Kennedy, an environmental and consumer protection attorney with more than four decades of experience, said he would overhaul the National Institutes of Health as part of a solution.

“The NIH, because it falls under the chemical industry, does not do the kind of studies (and) does not require the kind of studies that need to be done to determine the safety of these products –– and therefore the NIH has allowed Manufacturers to allow people and animals , etc. continue to poison without any consequences,” he alleged.

“I will shift NIH priorities to conduct these studies,” he added. “I can’t tell you that we’re going to ban every bad chemical, but I can put out enough science so that the lawyers can now sue the chemical company and close the market on that chemical very quickly.”

Kennedy, nephew of President John F. Kennedy and son of assassinated presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Sr., will face President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump in November’s general election. He is the only candidate who has identified a connection between free markets, infrastructure, energy production and a clean environment and made it a campaign issue.

Trump’s campaign website goes into more detail about infrastructure and energy production, although it takes a different approach. Trump’s platform boasts: “He approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, opening federal lands and offshore areas to responsible oil and gas production, and ending the unfair and costly Paris climate agreement. ”

Biden’s website takes no position on these issues. Indeed, there is no platform section on the Biden-Harris campaign website.

Kennedy has won a series of petitions to get out the vote in swing states, and he recently completed the process in Texas. Gallup polls have shown that Kennedy has the highest favorability rating (52%) of the three presidential candidates and is the only candidate with a net positive favorability.