Interview with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

ROSS: So what's going on here then with these extensive campaigns and all the candidates in the presidential election last year endorsing this?

KENNEDY: The coal industry and the carbon industry in general are the largest contributors to the political process. So, you know, you have politicians who have essentially become indentured servants to these, and adopt the talking points of these industries. And that's really, it's not in the best interest of the American public certainly but it's one of the sad fallouts of having a lackadaisical campaign finance system in this country, which really compromises, ultimately American democracy. Because you don't have politicians representing the American public, but rather the people who finance their campaigns. And that's the coal industry and the oil industry, who are the primary funders.

ROSS: So when you watched last fall with all the candidates, including President Obama talking about clean coal, what were you thinking when you watched all that?

KENNEDY: Oh, not only was I dismayed to see that, but also, if you looked at the presidential debates, the networks were allowing the coal industry to sponsor the debates. So that every single one of the presidential debates was sponsored by clean coal. So it's not just that it's corrupted the political process, but it's corrupted essentially the American media as well.

ROSS: Have you seen the commercials they're running now with President Obama, "Yes, we can" talking about clean coal? What's your reaction to that?

KENNEDY: Well, again, I think it's sad when political leaders feel that they are so indebted to these industries that they, and so fearful of them, essentially, that they have to endorse conditions that clearly are wrong.

ROSS: And you say that about President Obama?

KENNEDY: Yeah. Anybody who looks at this understands that the term "clean coal" is a dirty lie. That coal is neither cheap nor clean. It's devastating to our country, it's bad for our economy, it's devastating towards our communities, and we have wonderful alternatives in this country if we'd only invest in them.

ROSS: And you see in the stimulus package that there's $3 billion plus for clean coal. When the White House went for that did you raise an objection or do you object now?

KENNEDY: Well, we raised the objection when they were trying to put $17 billion dollars worth of stimulus for so-called "clean coal". We, so at the end, by the time we got to $3.6 billion it was looking pretty good. But it's much less than they asked for at the beginning. And I think in truth that this country is going to be moving away from carbon, because carbon, coal simply cannot compete in the marketplace. This morning I cut the ribbon on a new plant by a company called Abound, which is producing solar thermal panels in Colorado. And it's the largest production of solar, thin filmed solar panels in Colorado. It's the largest solar panel production in the world today, and it opened today. And they are producing solar panels for people's roofs at grid parity. That means they are producing it cheaper than you can produce coal.

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