Robert Kennedy Jr.’s take on wind turbines here
THE CITY: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will be in London Wednesday to discuss environmental advocacy and alternative energy projects
By IAN GILLESPIE, The London Free Press— March 24, 2010
Time magazine dubbed him a “hero for the planet.” Rolling Stone magazine named him one of its 100 “agents of change.” And he’s routinely referred to as a “champion of the environment.”
But that doesn’t mean Robert F. Kennedy Jr. thinks every alternative energy project should get a rubber-stamp vote of approval.
“Just because it’s so-called new energy or good energy doesn’t mean it’s not going to cause injury,” Kennedy says by phone from Colorado. “I don’t think that just because it’s wind or solar (energy) that local objections should be dismissed.”
Scheduled to speak Wednesday at the University of Western Ontario, the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy has built an impressive career out of his environmental advocacy.
Chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeepers, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, Kennedy is also a partner in VantagePoint Ventures Partners, which has invested in about two dozen “clean tech” companies, including a Massachusetts-based firm marketing a wind turbine based on jet engine technology.
So when I tell Kennedy how some residents near Strathroy objected to a proposed wind farm there, citing worries about headaches, nausea and rapid heartbeats, I expect him to dismiss such concerns out of hand.
But Kennedy is far more circumspect.
“There are lots of places where there’s wind, but not every place is suitable for wind farms,” he says. “It’s better than most kinds of large-scale industrial energy production, because it doesn’t produce carbon, it’s cheap and it’s got a relatively small footprint. But there are issues with it.”
Kennedy says he has spoken out, for instance, against a wind farm being built off Cape Cod, because the turbines would interfere with the local fishery.
But it won’t be long, Kennedy insists, before creating energy from alternative methods will cost less than producing it from established sources.
“Right now, wind and solar and geothermal (sources of energy) are essentially at parity with coal, nuke and oil, if the subsidies to those incumbents were eliminated,” he says. “We can produce energy a lot cheaper than they can. The only way they can continue to dominate the market is through massive subsidy.”
But Kennedy says he’s optimistic we’re near the “tipping point” when green technologies trump traditional ones.
“I see hope on the horizon that a lot of those subsidies are going to be eliminated, at least slowly,” he says, adding he believes that transition will take place within the next 10 years.
Nuclear energy, he adds, is financially unfeasible.
“It’s the most catastrophically expensive method ever devised for boiling a pot of water,” he says. “It simply could not compete against alternatives in the marketplace without massive federal subsidies.”
IF YOU GO
What: Our Environmental Destiny, a speech by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
When: Wednesday; doors open 6:15 p.m., speech starts 7:05 p.m.
Where: Alumni Hall, UWO
Admission: $30 non-students (plus tax); $15 students (plus tax); tickets available at the door or online at kennedyatwestern.ca
Ian Gillespie is a Free Press city columnist.