Bobby Kennedy, Jr., Environmentalist? – Far Less than Meets the Eye

I am, without reservation, very pleased that so many serious environmentalists, not to mention pretty much the entirety of the Kennedy clan, are calling out Robert Kennedy, Jr., for his inane but nevertheless dangerous behavior.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has a checkered record, at best, as an environmental activist.  It should not be forgotten that he ousted his mentor, the pioneering Hudson River environmentalist, Bob Boyle, from leadership of the group that Boyle founded, Riverkeeper.  Boyle, not incidentally, was not only Kennedy’s boss and mentor, but also, to a certain extent, his savior:  Boyle befriended him after Kennedy’s heroin bust.  The break came as a consequence of Kennedy wanting to hire a convicted felon, a wildlife smuggler, to Riverkeeper.  See the Washington Post on this ugly story.

On another front, Kennedy and another Natural Resources Defense Council lawyer, Jacob Scherr, parachuted into Ecuador to make deals with Conoco, a rampant polluter of the Oriente, the Ecuadorian part of Amazonia.  To quote from a New Yorker article from September, 1993, With Spears from All Sides:  “Confidential notes of the second NRDC meeting with Conoco were leaked to every nonprofit in the world with an interest in the Oriente, and the NRDC quickly found itself under wide attack.  In late May, Kennedy and Scherr again flew to Ecuador, where they were greeted, loudly and rudely, with picket lines supported by La Campaña Amazonia por la Vida, a coalition of thirteen Ecuadorian environmental and human rights groups.  ‘Robert Kennedy and Jacob Scherr are what we call environmental imperialists,’ Esperanza Martinez, who was then a coordinator of  Campaña, told me. ‘They came to Ecuador for five days, and then they went home and sat down with an oil company and decided they knew what was best for us.  What on earth gave them that right?’”

Then there’s the saga of Cape Wind, the offshore wind power project that Bobby Kennedy, Jr. did his utmost to kill, enlisting his powerful uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, to help derail it.  (Teddy: “But don’t you realize, that’s where I sail.”)  This was an exercise, at its baldest, in an advanced case of Nimbyism by particularly moneyed and entitled interests, Bill Koch perhaps foremost among them.  (See this from Greenpeace.)  A NY Times book review of the excellent retrospective on the eventual failure of the project, Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics, and the Battle for Our Energy Future on Nantucket Sound, had this to say: “Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a noted environmentalist, makes a bizarre appearance on a radio talk show, lumping the wind power proponents in with ‘polluters.’”  Wind power as pollution!  Sounds more like Ronald Reagan or Donald Trump to me.

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The Clear Reality of the Clean Tech Revolution

Oil companies and OPEC insist that we are going to need their product ad infinitum, but the International Energy Agency said in June this year that “a peak in oil demand is on the horizon” and “Growth is set to reverse after 2023 for gasoline and after 2026 for transport fuels overall.”

The IEA’s latest “World Energy Outlook,” out this week, makes what appears to be a bulletproof case for the looming demise not only of oil, but of coal and natural gas.  Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA, is unequivocal:  “The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide and it’s unstoppable. It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s just a matter of ‘how soon’ – and the sooner the better for all of us.” (This echoes what the IEA reported in December of last year in “Renewables 2022.” ) Continue reading

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The Green Electric Trifecta

see note at end of post

I wrote a year ago about what our plans were for the new house we’d bought:  Watching the Meter Run Backwards.  Well, we just completed the plan a few weeks ago:  We picked up our new EV.

The plan was to install solar photovoltaic panels.  We did that in December.  After that the heat pumps went in in January.  Then we went shopping for an electric vehicle and made our choice in May. Continue reading

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Atoms and Ashes

Nuclear power has been a bête noire of mine for decades.  When I was a kid, I thought this was the future – power “too cheap to meter” as the high priests of the cult of the atom told us.  But a book came out in 1971 by two veterans of the American nuclear project that was an epiphany for me:  Poisoned Power.  Long before Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, it made a convincing case against nuclear power.  In the half century since, I have seen virtually nothing that has made me rethink my opposition.  A brilliant new book, Atoms and Ashes – A Global History of Nuclear Disasters, has further deepened my convictions – not that they really needed any deepening, as my posts here will attest. Continue reading

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New Yorker Climate Issue – Just for the Record

The New Yorker had a characteristically superb compendium of stories last month about the climate crisis.  The best one was “Climate Change from A to Z” by Betsy Kolbert.  She relates important facts about climate change, going through the entire alphabet:  A for Arrhenius (who scoped the physics of global warming in the late 19th Century) to Z for Zero (in which she recounts how the “Colorado River basin has been called ‘ground zero for climate change in the United States.'”

She touches on the promise of clean tech but neglects one of the key burgeoning areas that is going to help us mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis, namely hydrogen.  I wrote a letter to the magazine and, just for the record, I want to share it here. Continue reading

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Renewables Are Powering Ahead

(Click on the graphic to open it in a new window.)

Here’s a headline for you:  The world is set to add as much renewable power in the next 5 years as it did in the past 20.

Maybe you didn’t see that coming.  Well, Amory Lovins, among others, saw it coming.  I heard him speak at a conference in New York City in the fall of 2009 and he said then:  “The Renewable Revolution has been won.  Sorry, if you missed it.”

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One Giant Leap Toward A Newer World

The premise of my book from way back when (2012) was that, stipulating that we were then (and are now) in a climate crisis, there were nevertheless heroic efforts underway to bring us back to some degree of climate health.  I wrote then:  “Some of my students and others have asked me over the last several years if we are addressing the climate crisis in time and with sufficient force and focus to avoid a planetary catastrophe. I tell them I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that we are forging new tools for much more sustainable, much cleaner and smarter ways to live. We have been realizing progress in areas like renewable energy that even ten years ago people in the field would have told you was not possible by now. We have a long way to go, but what we are seeing happen is incontrovertible evidence that there is a path to sustainability, that we can, in the words of the environmental prophet Barry Commoner, make peace with the planet.” Continue reading

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Solar Sanity is Restored

With solar power blossoming in the United States and the Biden Administration’s Day One vow to supercharge renewables, it came as a shock to learn in late March that the Commerce Department was throwing sand in the gears.  Based on what turned out to be a largely inaccurate interpretation of data offered by an American solar panel manufacturer, Commerce began an investigation that effectively blocked the importing of solar products from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.  The impact was immediate and devastating according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA):  forecasts for this year and next year being cut by 46%.  The 700 responses from an SEIA survey of industry businesses showed that 318 projects accounting for 51 GW of solar capacity and 6 GWh of attached battery storage were being cancelled or delayed, putting $52 billion of private investment and tens of thousands of jobs at risk.  An independent analysis, from Rystad Energy, found similar catastrophic disruptions as a result. Continue reading

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Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid

I have always said that I’m an environmentalist but not a naturalist.  I’m an environmentalist largely because I had so much pleasure outdoors as a kid:  camp on the ever-magnificent Lake George in New York, climbing and hiking in the Adirondacks, skiing in the Green Mountains, traveling around the American West one memorable summer, playing ball in the fall and spring.  I was blessed that way.  My wife and daughter have imbibed much of that love of the great outdoors.  I have never gained, however, a great deal of a grasp of the inner workings of the natural world.  Birders are all around me in Central Park during migration, but I can’t tell a hawk from a handsaw. The wonders of nature nevertheless never cease to astonish me.  An article from last year absolutely mystified me with this fact:  A species of beetle in South Africa, feeding on animal dung, like others of their cousins which are found on all the continents except Antarctica, roll their dung balls in a straight line at night by orienting with the Milky Way.  Astonishing.  The flash of color from a male Red-winged Blackbird once captivated me so thoroughly hitchhiking at dusk in Wisconsin that I realized it was my totem animal.  When I watch trees waving in the wind, it seems to me that they are dancing in joy at the sunlight and air. Continue reading

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