WASHINGTON — Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s first appearance as a presidential candidate will be in a cryptocurrency conference in Miami this month, when the iconoclastic Democrat embraces a controversial industry that environmentalists say is a major contributor to climate change.
Kennedy, the vaccine-skeptical environmental lawyer whose uncle was President John Kennedy, hasn’t held any public campaign events since launching his Democratic primary against President Joe Biden last month in Boston, the homeland of his famous family.
Before arriving in an early primary state like New Hampshire, Kennedy will host the Bitcoin 2023 conference, billed as the «world’s biggest bitcoin event,» where tickets start at $899 and the all-access «Whale» VIP pass costs $ 9,999.
“We asked him to speak after hearing his positive comments toward the bitcoin industry,” said Brandon Green, chief of staff at conference organizer BTC Media.
Kennedy will not be paid for his appearance, Green said. And his spokeswoman, Stefanie Spear, said Kennedy would not accept speaking fees at any events during his 2024 presidential campaign.
While many lawmakers have walked away from the cryptocurrency industry after a series of high-profile failures that wiped out small investors and led to federal fraud charges, Kennedy has positioned himself as one of the most prominent political champions of cryptocurrency in the nation.
Anthony Scaramucci, the crypto-friendly investor who briefly served as former President Donald Trump’s director of communications, said Kennedy’s promotion of cryptocurrency could endear him to his millions of devoted users.
«In my opinion, there is this shadow fandom or currently invisible lobby group, and it’s probably around 77 million people currently, bitcoin or other cryptocurrency holders in the United States,» said Scaramucci, who was quick to add. say that I did not agree with everyone. of Kennedy’s beliefs. “I think it will be a hot topic in 2024, and I imagine one of these presidential candidates will adopt bitcoin. And if they do, that will give them an advantage.»
While the bitcoin community has “a naturally libertarian bent” that may not align with most Democrats, Scaramucci said, “these are people who are generally party-agnostic.”
The only other political leaders to speak at Bitcoin 2023 are Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who said he considered choosing Kennedy as his running mate: Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla. , former representative. Tulsi Gabbard and the governor of the Indonesian state of West Java.
in a series of tweetsKennedy echoed libertarian views of cryptocurrency as a tool to fight repressive governments, hailing it as «a major driver of innovation.»
“Monetary freedom is as important as freedom of expression. Without it, we are slaves,» Kennedy wrote. «It’s not unreasonable to imagine that, even here in the United States, your bank account could one day be frozen because of your policies or comments you’ve made on social media.»
As US regulators seek to impose new protections on cryptocurrencies, Kennedy defended the industry from what he called a «extralegal war against cryptocurrencies” and suggested that the “FDIC/SEC war on cryptocurrency caused failures in [Silicon Valley Bank]Signature and Silvergate Banks.”
The stance puts Kennedy, an environmental lawyer who founded the nonprofit Waterkeeper Alliance, at odds with most other environmentalists, who say cryptocurrency’s enormous energy consumption is a major contributor to climate change.
A major study published last year found that cryptocurrencies can contribute to both climate change and global warming. beef or crude oil industriesespecially since miners looking for rock-bottom electricity rates often turn to dirtier sources of electricity.
Crypto «miners» use massive computing arrays that globally consume as much electricity as medium-sized countries like Norway and produce so much electronic garbage like Holland. American crypto operations consume as much electricity as any home computer or all residential lighting in the U.S.
The industry has committed to going green, and other cryptocurrencies have made great strides by switching to a different validation method that requires much less energy. Etherium, the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin, saw energy consumption reduced by 99.9% after it changed.
But bitcoin remains the biggest cryptocurrency and by far the biggest polluter, making Kennedy’s decision to speak at what organizers say is a «bitcoin-only» conference especially notable.
«This issue is really limited to bitcoin and maybe a couple of other smaller cryptocurrencies at the moment,» said Elizabeth Moran of the environmental nonprofit Earth Justice, which works on cryptocurrency regulation. «Energy consumption is so great in some places that utility bills are skyrocketing for consumers, there is increased consumption of fossil fuels, and increased water and air pollution.»
Moran added that «the industry is doing a lot of greenwashing.»
He The White House proposed this week a special tax of 30% on electricity used in crypto mining, which he said would make miners «pay their fair share of the costs imposed on local communities and the environment.»
Kennedy opposes the tax as «a bad idea,» suggesting in his Twitter thread that bitcoin’s environmental impact has been caused by nefarious actors.
“Yes, energy use is a concern (albeit a bit overblown), but bitcoin mining uses about as much as gaming and no one is calling for a ban. The environmental argument is a selective pretext to suppress anything that threatens elite power structures,” Kennedy wrote. “It is wrong for the US government to hamper industry and drive innovation elsewhere. Biden’s proposed 30% tax on cryptocurrency mining is a bad idea.»
Asked to explain his views, the Spear Kennedy spokesman said he believes the industry needs to switch to more renewable sources and take other steps to reduce its energy load.
“Energy consumption is a real problem, but it should not be used as a pretext to dull the currency,” he said.