Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Green Governator

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I've written before on Arnold Schwarzenegger's impressive environmental record -- see here, here, and here -- but I must admit I'm pleasantly surprised by just how progressive he's proven to be in Sacramento. And there's more yet to come:

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."

All of us who care about the environment and who worry about global warming and climate change more broadly should applaud his efforts and would do well to support him. The environment must not just be "an issue" but a leading -- if not the leading -- policy priority going forward.

If anyone can do it, Schwarzenegger can.

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