‘Every Home A Powerplant’: RFK Jr.’s Energy Vision

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. | Image by Kellen McGovern Jones/The Dallas Express

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was met with uproarious applause as he laid out his vision for energy production and infrastructure during a speech at EarthX in Dallas on Wednesday.

His speech took an approach to environmentalist policy rarely heard in discussions of the issue in the mainstream press, with Kennedy opening by noting that Americans were rightly suspicious of compulsory “top-down environmental policy … because of the COVID [lockdowns].”

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

He then gave an example. Early in his career, he recalled working with fishermen on the Hudson River whom he believed were “hook-and-bullet” Republicans. At the time, there was concern about pollution from several industrial facilities having a deleterious effect on the river. Kennedy said that the fishermen were interested in keeping the waters they sailed clean and protecting the health of the fish their livelihoods depended on, but they “felt alienated from the environmental movement.”

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

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

“Eliminating carbon emissions won’t matter if the aquifer is dried 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 elaborated on at length, and it was well received by those in attendance.

“We can make energy by burning prime rib if we want to,” Kennedy said, provoking laughter across the audience, but then he noted that doing so would deprive the country of “cheaper, better alternatives.”

He carried this analogy forward to the current state of U.S. energy production. He denounced government regulations and direct and indirect taxpayer subsidies for supporting the fossil fuel industry, which he claimed could not compete against renewable energy resources in a totally free market.

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

Kennedy supported this point by arguing that while fossil fuel energy may appear cheaper at face value, the cost to clean up its negative impacts is far greater. He pointed to the decimation of the “historic Purple Mountains Majesty, Appalachia … with the richest ecosystems, where bluegrass music was born, where Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett roamed … where 500 of the highest mountain tops in these areas have been flattened.”

His comment was in reference to modern forms of coal extraction that blow the tops off mountains to extract coal rather than using manpower to dig through the mountain.

He also noted that most American kids will never have a “seminal American experience of being able to go to [a fishing hole] to catch a fish and take it home to eat” because of mercury pollution and other toxins in most waterways.

Kennedy also talked about air quality and the various personal health consequences humans suffer from pollution.

“Environmental injury is deficit 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 turned to breaking down regulatory barriers, which he believed in some areas could help Americans make money while combating blackouts. He called for a change in the states’ regulatory regimes, which currently do not allow those with solar panels, for example, to sell the surplus energy their home produces back to the power companies at market prices on an unlimited basis.

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

He concluded with a call to massively overhaul U.S. energy infrastructure by unifying the national electrical grid and building deep-sea electrical lines so that electricity produced on wind farms in remote parts of the country could reach urban centers where they are needed.

Kennedy cataloged a variety of places where government infrastructure projects had cut costs and opened up new industries to regular people. These included the Erie Canal, which cut shipping costs, opened up produce markets in the midwest, and turned New York into a shipping hub. He also identified DARPA, the governmental precursor to the internet, as reinvigorating interest in personal computers in the 1990s and the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as driving the costs of long-distance telephone calls, once a luxury, to zero after incentives were put in place to build that infrastructure.

He committed a potential Kennedy administration to building the infrastructure to do the same thing for energy production.

“We built the internet, and the cost of information dropped to zero. … That is what will happen for [energy] when we build a unified national grid,” he said.

The crowd at EarthX, a multi-day environmentalist conference at Dallas’ Hilton Anatole, like Kennedy’s speech, would surprise those who were not familiar with it. Despite what one may expect, there were no tie-dye shirts or long braids. The event’s attendees were mostly well-dressed, clean-cut men and women. Many were investors who sought to network and find environmentally-conscious ventures. The attendees The Dallas Express spoke with came from outside Texas and included some visitors from Colorado and Florida.

Before his speech, DX spoke with Kennedy about his plans for clean water in Texas. Clean water is an issue Kennedy has often discussed on the campaign trail, and Texas has long had a problem with potentially carcinogenic herbicides and pesticides like glyphosate and atrazine appearing in the state’s water supply. Kennedy, an environmental and consumer protection lawyer with more than 40 years of experience, said he would overhaul the National Institute of Health as part of a solution.

“The NIH, because it is captured by 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 because of that, the manufacturers get to keep poisoning people and animals, etc., without any consequences,” he claimed.

“I am going to shift NIH’s priorities to do those studies,” he added. “I cannot tell you that we are going to ban every bad chemical, but I can put enough science out there that the lawyers can now litigate against the chemical company and let the market shut down that chemical very quickly.”

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

Trump’s campaign website brushes up on 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 for responsible oil and gas production, and ending the unfair and costly Paris Climate Accord.”

Biden’s website does not take a 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 on the ballot in swing states, and he recently wrapped up the process to do so in Texas. Gallup polls have shown that Kennedy has the highest favorability rating (52%) of the three presidential contenders and is the only candidate with net positive favorability.

Support our non-profit journalism

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Continue reading on the app
Expand article