Robert Kennedy Jr. to speak at DU on recession-busting green business

Robert Kennedy Jr., an early advocate for green government policy as economic stimulant, is scheduled to speak Thursday at the University of Denver Daniels School of Business’ “Voices of Experience” lecture series. “Come learn… what top people in business have to say about… turnaround strategies,” the Daniels School Web site invites. No better time for that.

Last May, Kennedy helped move discussion of the national energy “smart grid” into public consciousness with a “manifesto” he published in Vanity Fair entitled “The Next President’s First Task.” Kennedy’s manifesto celebrated the boom that would follow the de-carbonizing the U.S. economy and urged Obama (or McCain) to enact an immediate cap-and-trade system to seriously reduce emissions. He called the American Midwest a “Saudia Arabia of wind” — a rhetorical formulation that has now become a cliche. He said that a revamped national power-transmission system would be a “strategic masterstroke,” the construction of which would “create a marketplace where utilities, established businesses, and entrepreneurs can sell energy and efficiency.”

In the thousand blog posts launched in response to Kennedy’s manifesto, the detractors included David Morris at Alternet. The author of three books on the national electricity system, Morris wrote that, in fact, smart-grid advocates are missing the point of green power — namely that it is local and renewable. The new national grid, he said, would serve mostly to keep non-renewable power plants in business and divert funds and research better spent elsewhere.

Kennedy, though, is still a major cheerleader for the grid and its place at the center of any economic recovery plan. Although he is scheduled to speak on the role natural resources play in our identity as Americans and on ways businesses can thrive by turning to green practices, event attendees will likely be interested to learn the specifics of how he sees construction of the grid playing out as part of the Obama stimulus package, and what that might mean for Colorado workers in particular.

The talk is open to the public and will be 10 a.m. to noon at The University of Denver’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts. The Daniels School events staff reports that roughly 800 attendees have registered as of today, Monday, and that the hall seats 1,000 people. Register here.

As a preview, here is Kennedy last week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” reiterating (about six minutes into the YouTube) that “the most important investment” we can make to stimulate the economy right now “is to rebuild our grid system in this country.”

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