Situational environmentalist

Editor's note: The following editorial originally ran in the Providence Journal.

Hypocrisy makes the world go ’round. Thus it is with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Mr. Kennedy first got into the environmental business as community service after a drug arrest back in the ’80s, and has made a lot of money presenting himself as one of America’s most avid environmentalists — indeed, as a kind of Cotton Mather of Green. But in practice, he’s a lot more, well, situational.

Thus energy-poor New England waits and waits . . . while the oil and coal keep getting shipped in.

For instance, he says he favors alternative energy like windmills — somewhere. But he has in his famous strident voice viciously and untruthfully attacked the effort to put up a wind farm in Nantucket Sound, one of the best places in North America for such a project –– close to the grid of a highly populated area, and with protected water and reliable wind. Thus energy-poor New England waits and waits . . . while the oil and coal keep getting shipped in.

But then, the Kennedy family has summer places from which members would be subjected to looking at the windmills five or six miles away. Can’t have that. So Mr. Kennedy joined forces with other rich, powerful folks, who have, with big checkbooks and back-room deals, so far kept this overdue project from contributing to our clean-energy supply.

Mr. Kennedy says he opposes wasting oil, but he is also in the plastic bottled-water industry, much of which is a giant oil-guzzling, anti-environment boondoggle. (The bottles are made from oil and shipping them around wastes more oil. And the liquid, despite the lie-rich ad copy, is often worse than tap water.) He has strenuously fought state legislation aimed at reducing the use of wasteful bottled water in New York.

He showed no respect for democracy - or the need for clean energy.

And now there’s the curious case of BrightSource, a company that wants to put a big solar-energy operation in the Mojave Desert, in California. In this case, Mr. Kennedy opposes an effort by some environmentalists to set up a National Monument in the area to protect it from the alleged horrors of the solar operation proposed by BrightSource. Foes say the project would hurt local eco-systems –– just the sort of argument, proven to be fraudulent, that Mr. Kennedy used against Cape Wind.

But then, he happens to have a financial stake in BrightSource! His funniest remark about the project is his complaint that the National Monument crowd is “putting the democratic process and sound scientific judgment on hold to jeopardize the energy future of our country.” In the Cape Wind case, he and his allies have used sheer financial and political power against the wishes of the vast majority of the population to be served by the wind farm. He showed no respect for democracy — or the need for clean energy. That was then, anyway. Maybe in the California case it’s different? In any case, it’s all about the needs of Mr. Kennedy. welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on