Filling in the Picture: The Latest From Kennedy about Climate

Here’s what Kennedy says about his campaign, its effect on the race, and climate change.

I did a post on Thursday flagging some “unanswered questions” about RFK, Jr. and   climate change.  I had no intention of ever posting about his campaign again, let alone this soon. But by a wild coincidence, E&E News released a story the very next day about its interview with Kennedy that addressed those questions. Some of his answers may be what you expected. Others may surprise you, like his embrace of natural gas as a fuel and his reservations about regulating emissions.

Climate policy

Kennedy hadn’t previously said much policy approach to climate change during the campaign.  The interview filled in some of the picture,  although other points remain vague.

Fossil fuel production and export. According to E&E, Kennedy no longer supports a fracking ban. Kennedy does favor a ban on natural gas exports, but not because he wants to keep the gas in the ground. Quite the opposite: he wants the U.S. to burn it instead.  Kennedy says, “It’s cheap energy that puts us at a global competitive advantage, and we ought to be keeping that gas in our country and using it to rebuild our industrial base. It does no good for the American people to ship it abroad to Europe.”

Importance of the climate issue.  “I believe that climate is existential, but I don’t insist other people believe that. The issue is now so toxic and so radioactive that if you even talk about it, it shuts off people’s brains.”

Funding for clean energy.  Kennedy would definitely repeal funding for carbon capture and sequestration, which he views as a giveaway to the fossil fuel industry. E&E reports that he is open to “limited subsidies” but has criticized the size of the Inflation Reduction Act’s other spending on clean energy.

Emissions regulation. E&E reports that Kennedy was “non-committal” about keeping EPA’s current climate initiatives, but concerned about climate regulations in general: “When you start clamping down controls on people, they rebel.  Americans had enough of that during Covid, of people using the crisis — that many people believe now was manufactured — in order to clamp down totalitarian controls and shift wealth upward. And they see a mirror of that in climate.”

Other climate measures. Kennedy supports regenerative agriculture and land preservation. He has also mentioned the idea of making utilities “internalize the cost” of using fossil fuels.

Election and campaign issues.

My post mentioned that Kennedy had hired a leading climate denier as a spokesman. Kennedy responded that “I don’t try to control how other people perceive the world,” Kennedy said. “He’s not speaking for my campaign when he says those things.”

One question that he and his running mate had not previously addressed was whether they were concerned about the possibility that they might divert voters from Biden and help reelect Trump, who is vehemently against climate action.  The answer was no. E&E reports that he “rejects any assertion that he could tip the election to Trump and said he doesn’t worry that helping elect Trump to a second term would erase his [Kennedy’s] decades of environmental activism.”

Kennedy and his running mate have announced that they will be explaining their “vision for healthy people and a healthy planet” on Earth Day (April 22). Hopefully, that will provide some additional clarity about their views. 

Addendum [April 19].  So far, Kennedy has seemingly failed to persuade his former professional colleagues in environmental law. According to the NY Times, they are joining a group statement attacking his current environmental views, with one former mentor saying, “I do not recognize the person he has become. His actions are a betrayal to our environment.” We’ll have to see whether Kennedy’s explanation of his views on Earth Day changes their minds.

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Reader Comments

One Reply to “Filling in the Picture: The Latest From Kennedy about Climate”

  1. fracking bans are irrational. the thousands of abandoned oil and gas well from the 19th and 20th centuries pose a greater risk to groundwater than fracking. natural gas is a reasonable bridge to a renewable future. only the most extreme climate zealots oppose natural gas.

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

READ more