Kennedy slams media on public policy failures, lack of energy reform

With President Barack Obama Wednesday saying the GOP takeover of the U.S. House officially puts a fork in comprehensive climate change legislation, an interview of Robert Kennedy Jr. by David Roberts on Grist is must reading for anyone wondering about a path forward for meaningful energy policy reform.

Kennedy is the senior attorney for the National Resource Defense Council, president of the Waterkeeper Alliance and a fixture in the liberal-leaning, politically progressive Colorado town of Aspen. You may have heard of it.

Roberts out of the gate asked Kennedy what backers of climate change/energy policy reform can and should be doing. And Kennedy started off by saying Congress may have failed but there’s plenty the Obama administration can do on its own:

“There are a lot of things that the federal government can do without going through Congress. Those are the lessons Bush and Cheney taught us. The Supreme Court has given the EPA the authority to put a price on carbon. We ought to be doing that. The administration also ought to be putting a cost on mercury from coal plants. They should altogether ban mountaintop-removal mining. They should try to force the carbon industry to internalize their costs the same way that they internalize their profits.

“Then the administration needs to help construct a national grid system that functions as a marketplace for renewable power. We need a marketplace that turns every American into an energy entrepreneur and every home into a power plant, that powers our country on what Franklin Roosevelt called “America’s industrial genius.” We need a national program like Eisenhower launched in the 1950s and 60s to reconstruct our highway system and have it reach every community in the country.

“Right now we have a marketplace for energy in this country that is rigged by rules that were written by the incumbents to favor the dirtiest, filthiest, most poisonous, most destructive, most addictive fuels from hell, rather than the cheap, clean, green, abundant, and wholesome fuels from heaven.

“We need a marketplace that does what a market is supposed to do: reward good behavior, which is efficiency, and punish bad behavior, which is inefficiency and waste. If solar and wind and geothermal are allowed to compete, they will blow the competition out of the water — all they need is the infrastructure, which is the national marketplace that will allow them to sell that energy.”

But Kennedy’s best answer was reserved for Roberts’ next question about national policy failure:

“National climate policy is ultimately a victim of the national political calamity. What we’re looking at is the tragic collapse of American democracy. A lot of it has to do with what’s happening in the media. George Bernard Shaw said that a journalist is somebody who can’t distinguish between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization. The Citizens United case was the collapse of civilization, but the media ended up covering the Ground Zero Islamic center and Juan Williams and Charlie Sheen and giving very little attention to the impacts of this momentous case.”

It should be noted that the Colorado Independent has dedicated far more space to climate change policy than the Sheen-anigans of the highest paid actor on TV, Charlie Sheen – even though most of Sheen’s allegedly alcohol- and cocaine-fueled activities have occurred in the aforementioned Colorado town of Aspen (that last bit was just for the search engines, Robert).

We are, after all, mostly a political and policy website. If, for instance, it turns out the office of Pitkin County District Attorney Martin Beeson — a Republican who initially threw his hat in the ring to take on outgoing 3rd Congressional District Rep. John Salazar — didn’t go after Sheen hard enough on domestic violence issues (shades of Ken Buck), then we’ll be all over that.

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