DENVER, Col. – Environmental lawyer and advocate Robert Kennedy Jr. made the business case for investing in the environment and achieving energy independence at this week’s American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo (AIHce) in Denver, Col.
Delivering the keynote at AIHce’s opening ceremonies, Kennedy said investing in the environment today will ensure economic vitality in the future.
“Nature is the infrastructure of our communities,” Kennedy, who has been championing environmental causes for 25 years, told thousands of industrial hygiene and health and safety professionals attending the conference.
He urged the government to stop subsidizing the “big polluters” and start focusing on investing in clean and sustainable energy sources. He noted that the U.S. gives the oil industry $1.3 trillion in subsidies.
These subsidies include such expenditures as the health care costs of diseases and occupational injuries associated with coal production, the environmental impact of pollution caused by coal plants. There are also “hidden subsidies” or other indirect costs associated with coal production in the U.S.
For example, Kennedy said the highways in West Virginia are built with 22 inches of asphalt, about four times more the amount of asphalt a regular road would have, in order to support heavy trucks carrying coal across the state. This leaves tax payers footing the bill.
“We are borrowing $1 billion a day to import oil from countries that don’t share our values,” he said.
In arguing for the need to invest in cleaner energy sources, Kennedy said certain countries that are either already decarbonized or in the process of decarbonizing their energy production, are getting positive results.
He cited Iceland, which has now achieved 100 per cent energy independence. Sweden, Brazil and Costa Rica are also some of the other countries that are doing the same thing.
Kennedy said it’s creating business opportunities for entrepreneurs. “Every nation that has decarbonized their society experienced instantaneous prosperity.”
Kennedy’s hour-long keynote was well-received by AIHce attendees. The AIHce is being held at the Colorado Convention Centre from May 22 to 27.