RFK Jr. at DU: Up about the future, down about the stimulus

Environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (Photo/chickago66, Flickr)
Environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (Photo/chickago66, Flickr)
Addressing sustainable business practice, the environment and public policy, Robert Kennedy Jr. yesterday spoke for two hours before an overflow audience at the University of Denver’s Gates Concert Hall.

He proselytized on the revolutionary benefits of one of his pet projects: a national energy smart grid, construction of which, he said, should be a top priority, that it would be the best kind of economic stimulus and a matter of national security.

“We give $700 billion dollars every year to Saudi Arabia. That money would all stay here. We’d be building a new economy based on U.S. entrepreneurship rather than Saudi oil… Imagine, the United States will have free energy forever.”

Answering a question posed by the Colorado Independent on the federal stimulus package and whether it might significantly move the nation toward a green economy, he said that he was pessimistic in general about the ability of the stimulus to turn the economy around quickly.

“And the problem [regarding green energy development] is that the stimulus is looking for projects that are shovel ready, ready to go immediately. Our opportunity lies [not in the stimulus package but] in the energy plan.”

He also detailed the work of some of the companies he backs through his partnership in Vantage Point, a $5 billion investment firm. Silicon Valley electric car company Better Place, for example, has teamed with Renault and Nissan to transfer the entire country of Israel from gasoline to electric transportation. The country’s cars will be powered by wind, geothermal and solar farms.

“This is happening, right now, with technology available today. And it will happen here, too…”

He was best in railing against the “crony capitalist” myth that we have to choose between protecting the environment and growing the economy. “It’s propaganda… Rush Limbaugh says we value the Spotted Owl more than we value people, that we’re radical tree huggers. There’s nothing radical about wanting clean air to breathe, water to drink that’s free of chemicals. Our concern for the Spotted Owl is concern for ourselves. It’s the difference between true free-market capitalism and crony capitalism. You show me a polluter and I’ll show you a business dependent on government subsidies. They externalize their true costs by making taxpayers pay to clean up their mess. It’s deficit spending, passing on a debt to our children that they’ll never be able to pay.”

He said that when he speaks to Republican crowds, they’re very receptive.

“They say, ‘Why didn’t I know that?’ and I say, ‘Because you get your news from Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.’ Eighty percent of Republicans are just Democrats who don’t know what’s going on.”

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