Saturday, December 23, 2006

Schwarzenegger goes green

Excellent front-page Washington Post story on California's governor.

The full story at

Here are some excerpts:

Schwarzenegger Remakes Himself as Environmentalist; Governor Challenges GOP on Global Warming

John Pomfret 23 December 2006
The Washington Post Page A1

Arnold Schwarzenegger is not the type of guy you would necessarily associate with tree hugging. When he bought a Hummer in the early 1990s, it kicked off a nationwide craze for the gas-guzzling behemoths. His lighter-fluid-dowsed action flicks and protein-packed chest bespoke more of American excess than environmentalism, more violence than vegan.

But as governor of California, Schwarzenegger has engaged in a savvy makeover, befitting a Hollywood star. He retooled one of his four Hummers to run on alternative fuels and is quickly fashioning himself into one of the most aggressively pro-environment governors in a state known for leading the nation on that issue.

This year he signed the nation's first environmental law of its kind, committing the state to lowering its greenhouse gas production to 1990 levels by 2020 and setting up an international program that provides manufacturers with incentives to lower carbon emissions, which is supposed to begin by 2012. He has vowed to fight any attempt to drill for oil off California's coast.

And now Schwarzenegger, a Republican, wants to use his star power to turn global warming into an issue in the 2008 presidential election. "There is a whole new movement because of the change of people sent to Washington," Schwarzenegger said in an interview this week, referring to the Democratic Party's impending takeover of Congress. "We want to put the spotlight on this issue in America. It has to become a debate in the presidential election. It has to become an issue."...

But no other issue divides the governor and the president as much as global warming.

Schwarzenegger's embrace of the issue is clearly a gambit on the part of a politician with big ambitions. Analysts say he could run for the Senate in 2010. He cannot run for president because he was not born in the United States.

Schwarzenegger made no bones about his exasperation with the Bush administration's refusal to allow California to become the first state in the nation to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. A request in 2005 for that authority has received no response from the Environmental Protection Agency. The question of whether the EPA -- or other agencies -- should regulate greenhouse gases is being considered by the Supreme Court.

"We are going to find a way to do it, no matter what anyone says," Schwarzenegger said. ". . . We have to make moves that protect the health of the people. That's our number one priority.
"We don't want Washington to tell us when we are allowed to be healthy or when we should get cancer," he continued. "We don't want people to die because pollution causes certain illnesses and cancers and so on." ...

Environmental groups, rarely inclined to support a Republican, have grudgingly given Schwarzenegger decent marks. "Schwarzenegger has really taken the lead on greenhouse gases, more so than almost any American politician," said Frank O'Donnell, president of D.C.-based Clean Air Watch. "His state is the leading edge of many of our problems, but it's also the leading edge of many of their solutions."

In California, Schwarzenegger's pro-environmental position is part of a bipartisan tradition; even Ronald Reagan was known as pro-environment during his years in the statehouse. Since the 1960s, the state, bedeviled by the worst air quality in the United States, has led the nation in tackling pollutants. In 1961, it required the first automotive emissions control technology in the nation, and its regulations continue to be the toughest in the country.

California's standards have helped give birth in the United States to hybrid cars, efficient refrigerators and air conditioners, and the catalytic converter, which, because of California's leadership, will soon be installed on lawn mowers and other equipment using two-stroke engines.

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