Robert Kennedy Jr on a sustainable future for our society…

I’m ashamed to admit that I knew nothing of Robert Kennedy Jr until about a month ago.  Not a single thing, to my great detriment.  By the way, he’s the guy on the left in the picture above, not the one on the right who cut his workers’ pay across the board last year while giving himself a several million dollar raise.

Since hearing Robert speak at a rally in Charleston, WV against mountaintop removal of coal (and specifically, FOR a sustainable future and jobs for Coal River Mountain, WV), where he absolutely gripped me with his moral and economic good sense, I’ve pursued getting to know him better.  Thankfully, there are a number of media outlets (thank God for independent media, especially! Literally, thank you God!) that carry his message and have provided a forum and a vehicle to speak good sense and a healthy future for our society.

I will be posting an extended quote of Robert’s below from a conversation on January 21st, 2010 with Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.  It is the most forward-thinking, clearly laid out perspective I’ve heard to this point of America’s energy future (for good or ill) and how we can put America’s innovative capabilities to work.  His comments take the general phrase “green economy” that we’ve all heard and know little specific about and offers specific solutions.

Simply put, Robert Kennedy Jr. has now joined the small list of voices I deeply trust to guide and shape my thinking as I live and interact in this society and world.  Here’s his extended comment,

China is going to increase its solar deployment by 2020 by 20,000%. We plan to increase ours by 37%. And understand this. If we don’t switch to renewables right now, and if this state doesn’t think about how to start switching right now, we’re going to be buying green energy technology from the Chinese for the next 100 years, the same way we’ve been buying oil from the Saudis for the last 100.

We need to get out ahead of this curve and start investing…and demand of our politicians, “Build the infrastructure in our states and start subsidizing infrastructures to compete with the huge subsidies we give to the carbon incumbents, to coal and oil.”

I’m in this industry. I’m building these plants right now. I’m on the board of a company called Bright Source, which is building the biggest solar thermal plant in the world. 2.7 gigawatts. The biggest power plant in America. We’re building it in CA, and we’re building it at the same cost per gigawatt you could build a coal plant…but once we build that plant, it’s free energy forever. Once you build the coal plant, we now have to cut down the Appalachian mountains and ship them across the country in coal cars, warp every train track in this country so we can’t have high-speed rail, build the coal haul roads in WV so thick (at taxpayer expense) that it’s costing this state $200 million a year to build and maintain them (another subsidy to coal), then you gotta burn the stuff, poison every river and lake in America, kill 60,000 Americans with ozone and particulates, cause a million asthma attacks a year, sterilize all the lakes in the Adirondacks. These are the true costs of coal. Once you build a solar plant, it’s free forever. The photons are hitting our country every day for free. All we have to do is pick them up.

You could build wind plants even cheaper than you can build a coal plant. And guess what? The Midwest of our country is the Saudi Arabia of wind. North Dakota is the windiest place on the planet. We have enough wind in North Dakota, Montana, and Texas to provide 100% of the energy needs in this country for the next 50 years.

We have enough solar in an area (and this is from the Scientific American (a peer-reviewed study) 75 miles by 75 miles in the desert southwest to provide 100% of the energy needs of this country even if every American owned an electric car. We use about a thousand gigawatts a day during peak demand. 500 of those are carbon. To eliminate those and replace them with solar and wind will cost us 1.3 trillion dollars. That’s about half the price of the Iraq war, we have free energy forever, we never have to give all that money to Iraq, and we don’t have to poison and impoverish the people of Appalachia in order to do it. This is a real solution for our country and we need to embrace it.”

That’s the best sense I’ve heard in a long time from anyone, and helps me wrap my mind around something specific rather than somewhat vague terms like “sustainability” or “green economy” that enable insidiously destructive corporations to deceive persons into believing they’re concerned about our larger society’s health.

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