Governor: Go mainstream with green

first_imgWASHINGTON – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger boasted Wednesday that California’s leadership is making environmentalism hip, sexy and mainstream, no longer just a guilt-driven movement for “tree-huggers” and “fanatics.” “Environmentalists were no fun. They were like prohibitionists at the fraternity party,” the moderate Republican governor told a student audience at Georgetown University, part of an East Coast swing to promote his increasingly enthusiastic embrace of the environment. “Successful movements are built on passion. They aren’t built on guilt,” he said, predicting that environmentalism was reaching a “tipping point” where it will move into the mainstream. “I don’t know when the tipping point occurs, but I know where – in California,” he said. “Here we are, three-and-a-half years later, and I’m on the cover of Newsweek as one of the big environmentalists,” he marveled. “Only in America, that’s all I can say.” Schwarzenegger’s biggest claim to environmental fame lies in California’s landmark global warming law that he signed last year. It imposed the country’s first statewide cap on emissions of the heat-trapping gases that are blamed for global warming. The law, written by Democrats, requires California to reduce emissions by an estimated 25 percent by 2020 – an estimated 174 million metric tons. Some Democrats in Congress, including California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who chairs the environment committee, want to use California’s law as a model as Congress seeks to write federal global warming legislation. Schwarzenegger acknowledged California’s measure alone will not have a significant effect on carbon emissions. But he said it would serve to push the rest of the country, and the world, in the direction the most populous state is moving. California is the world’s 12th largest producer of the emissions blamed for warming the earth. Schwarzenegger didn’t mention that before signing the state’s emissions bill he sought to weaken it in favor of business interests and threatened a veto if Democrats didn’t cede to his requests. Schwarzenegger maintains those changes were not meant to weaken the bill’s environmental goals, but instead represented a difference of opinion with legislative Democrats over how they could be achieved. After his speech, Schwarzenegger met with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who endorsed his plan to add water storage in California as a way to cope with the expected changes brought by higher temperatures. “We learned a lot from the electricity crisis, and the water crisis that California faces can make electricity look like kindergarten,” she said. In response to a question, Schwarzenegger refused to take a position on the liquefied natural gas terminal that an Australian energy company is trying to build off the Southern California coast. The project was rejected this week by the State Lands Commission, and Schwarzenegger’s decision is due in May. “We have to really look at it, and I have not really seen all the studies,” he said. Schwarzenegger also met with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson to press him on a federal waiver California is seeking to allow the state to limit tailpipe emissions. The Bush administration reopened that petition after the Supreme Court’s ruling this month that the government can regulate emissions from cars. California’s efforts to promote greater auto fuel efficiency drew attention in Michigan last month, when a Republican congressman running for re-election paid for a billboard reading: “Arnold to Michigan: Drop Dead!” The governor gave a response Wednesday in his speech to the Georgetown audience: “What I’m saying to Michigan is, `Michigan, get off your butt and join us,”‘ he said. Schwarzenegger has been making frequent public appearances outside California, by his own account trying to influence the presidential campaign with his views on politics and the environment. A native of Austria, Schwarzenegger is not eligible to run for president.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Schwarzenegger likened environmentalism to bodybuilding, his first arena of success, which he said was once considered a marginal sport for weirdos. “It became mainstream, it became sexy, attractive, and this is exactly what has to happen with the environmental movement,” he said. Schwarzenegger appeared at a conference sponsored by Newsweek magazine, which put him on its current cover balancing a globe on his finger with the caption “Save the Planet – Or Else.” A blowup of the cover was behind him as he spoke Wednesday. Even Schwarzenegger – whose environmental record isn’t as spotless as he sometimes portrays – expressed some amazement about that. When he ran for governor in 2003, he recalled, he was hounded by environmentalists complaining about his personal fleet of gas-guzzling Hummers. last_img