Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: The Future is Making Every Home a Power Plant and Every American an Energy Entrepreneur

Posted on 07. Feb, 2011 by in Business & Policy, Clean Tech

Opportunity Green attended the Los Angeles Business Council Clean Energy Forum with special guest Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been at the forefront of fighting for the environment for over 20 years.  He makes a very compelling case that “good environmental policy is identical to good economic policy” and that we are not only fighting for the environment, but also for democracy in moving towards sustainable energy.

“Nature is the infrastructure of our communities and we need to make an investment in that infrastructure”.

Kennedy began his speech with the very poignant point that economic prosperity and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive of each other; as many current business leaders, policy makers and pundits would like us to believe.  In fact history has shown that environmentally driven change has led to great periods of wealth.  In the 1970s, Iceland de-carbonized and began using its own geothermal energy resources and went from being the poorest nation (100% dependence on foreign oil and coal) to the fourth richest country in Europe (prior to the 2008-2010, economic collapse, brought on in large part from overinvestment in the króna, and put to a head by the global financial crisis [source]).  In 1996, Sweden moved towards closing all of its nuclear power plants and taxed carbon and is now the sixth richest country in the world (based on GDP).  These are only two examples of the economic benefits of adapting greener technology and policy.

Kennedy outlined three hurdles President Obama faces in moving the United States from a carbon and oil burning nation to a sustainable energy nation successfully using abundant natural resources like wind and solar.

What stands in the way of successful sustainable power:

  • Subsidies

o   In the current system, government subsidies are being given to the polluters.  Kennedy showed an angry passion on this subject when reminding the audience that the coal and nuclear industries (both very mature and profitable industries) still receive large government subsidies for doing business.

  • Antiquated Power Grid

o   A smart grid that can handle long haul transmission of wind and solar power needs to be created.  Our national system, which was set up a hundred years ago is currently incapable of moving energy captured in the windiest and sunniest states for long haul usage.

  • A “Byzantine” System

o   Kennedy described the U.S. power grid as a Byzantine System, with about 200,000 miles of power lines divided among 500 owners where transmission upgrades often involve private land owners, multiple companies, state governments and numerous permits.

o   In 1979, the government funded the building of a grid that would carry information among networked computers.  Because of that investment in infrastructure, we now have free access to information via the internet forever.  Kennedy bets that the same thing will happen with electrons when the grid is built for transmission of solar and wind power.

What are the solutions to these challenges:

  • Create a national market place for sustainable energy.

o   Free market capitalism is the greatest economic principle in Kennedy’s opinion.  A law that encourages every home to become a power plant and put energy into the grid would not only be efficient and environmentally sustainable, but enrich entire communities (versus the current model where ‘polluter’ companies enrich themselves while impoverishing the rest of us of natural resources).

o   On a macro level, Kennedy suggested that our federal government should make it illegal for corporations to contribute to political campaigns.

o   Allow utility companies to make money by encouraging energ y usage reduction and/or switch to renewable energy sources.

“We need to recognize that our nation’s dependence on foreign oil causes destruction of our environment, our democracy and public trust”.  While it is promising that the President addressed this issue in his recent State of the Union address and talked of moving the country to sustainable energy, the real change and policy making isn’t happening at the federal level; it is happening on the state and local level with mayors and city councils leading the way.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa reconfirmed his commitment to continue to chart a greener, more sustainable path for Los Angeles.  He pointed out that Los Angeles is using the same amount of water as 30 years ago.  And even more importantly, achieved its 20% renewable energy goals in 2010 (LA was using only 3.5% renewable energy when the goal was set six years ago) and plans to up that to 33% by 2020. With these improvements, the city is conserving 19 times more energy than 2005.

Kennedy closed with this: “The cost of extracting and burning coal is greater than the cost of refitting our infrastructure for the New Energy Economy.  Let’s work towards making every American an energy entrepreneur and every American home a power plant!”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is author of Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Highjacking Our Democracy and The Riverkeepers: Two Activists Fight to Reclaim Our Environment as a Basic Human Right.

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3 Responses to “Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: The Future is Making Every Home a Power Plant and Every American an Energy Entrepreneur”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Opportunity Green and Hallie Lancaster, Milwaukee Modern. Milwaukee Modern said: RIGHT ON! RT @oppgreen: RFK Jr.: The Future is Making Every Home a Power Plant & Every American an Energy Entrepreneur [...]

  2. This article is very encouraging for all of us.

  3. Thomas - Electric Car

    20. Mar, 2011

    A decentralized energy supply for every household or at least a smaller amount of household in combination with smart devices could improve the grid stability as well as the security of supply.
    Even the big suppliers assume that in the future there will be a lot of smaller supply devices instead of less big plants!

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