Kennedy Calls for Investments in Clean Energy

The American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition (AIHce) keynote speaker Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., on May 24 called for extensive reform of U.S. energy policy, advocating an end to subsidies for coal and oil companies and for investment in infrastructure to support energy from solar, wind, and natural gas sources.

Decrying the “false choice between economic success and environmental protection,” Kennedy’s address depicted the costs of decades of environmental damage from mining and oil drilling. A senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Kennedy characterized the U.S. dependency on foreign oil as a national security issue and said that it had “beggared a nation that, when I was a little boy, owned half of the wealth on the face of the planet.”

Kennedy also lamented the “hidden costs of mining,” including practices that contaminate freshwater streams with mercury. “We’re living in a science fiction nightmare in America where children can’t participate in a seminal activity of American youth ─ fishing with their fathers and coming home to eat the fish,” Kennedy said.

The solution, Kennedy said, is to recognize that “nature is the infrastructure of our communities.” He called for improvements to the nation’s power grid that would allow owners of small wind and solar farms to transmit their energy into the national supply, and advocated for reform of rules that prevent individuals from selling excess power back to the system at market rates. Kennedy also criticized state rules that force utilities to buy coal-generated energy before energy generated by other means.

The antidote for rules that favor the oil and coal industries over fledgling new-energy industries, according to Kennedy, is a true free-market economy. “The best thing that could happen to our environment is true free-market capitalism,” Kennedy said. “It would encourage us to properly value our natural resources.”

Each year, AIHce hosts speakers devoted to protecting the health and safety of both workers and the environment. This year's conference is cosponsored by the American industrial Hygiene Association® and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.

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