The Terminator says go green

By Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California (THE TIMES, 06/05/07):

Global warming is not something we are fantasising. It is real. The science is in.

In California we have picked up where the federal government has left off in its failure to lead. In an example of postpartisanship, Democrats and Republicans together are responding quickly to the reality of climate change in our state. We have passed legislation to roll back greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020 and strictly limit carbon emissions from vehicles.

We are also, for example, promoting the “hydrogen highway” so that more cars - including my own Hummer - can run on hydrogen fuel, which emits no carbon at all. Our role as government is to set the carbon limits; it is up to industry to figure out how it wants to meet these limits, whether that be new kinds of batteries, new fuel mixes or new fuels altogether.

To magnify the impact of our own actions, we are partnering other states in America, provinces in Canada and even Tony Blair in Great Britain to promote greenhouse gas reductions. The biggest challenge, however, is to convince our own government in Washington not only that it must act, but lead. America is only 5% of the world population, but we are responsible for 45% of the automotive carbon emissions.

As more and more people come on board, I hope the federal government will get the message. Recently, the US Supreme Court ruled that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has the power to regulate greenhouse gases just like air pollution. Yet the EPA has not yet granted California the “waiver” needed by states to implement their own regulations. Therefore, to make sure it gets the message, we have just given the federal government six months’ notice that if the waiver is not forthcoming, we will sue for our rights as a state. The clock is ticking.

I am very conscious as we go down this road that we need to protect jobs and the economy as well as the environment. We don’t have to make a choice between them. We can do both. In the short term, this has already been proven: we have passed strict environmental laws in California - yet, at the same time, the state has returned from the brink of bankruptcy with solid economic growth that has generated hundreds of thousands of jobs in the past two years. Businesses are now coming back to California, not leaving.

In the longer term, the public demand to clean up the environment and stem global warming is opening new markets for green, clean technology. Because of this, business is becoming one of the biggest boosters of the environmental cause instead of its enemy.

One example: Tesla Motors has created a car that is 100% electric and can drive more than 200 miles before it needs recharging. It can travel at a speed of over 130mph and go from 0-60 in four seconds. It would beat any Porsche.

The problem has been that, so often, fuel-efficient cars are design deficient. They don’t look that great. They are not the kind of car the Terminator would drive. Like me, many people want a sexy sports car with a stick shift. But we also want to be green.

The point is that industry can change its technology to be clean and green. You can have a big “muscle car” like my Hummer, or a mom who wants her kids to be safe can drive a large sports utility vehicle - but with zero carbon emissions.

I have just co-hosted a TV show here in America called Pimp My Ride, where old cars are fixed up to look nice and sexy. We put an 800-horsepower engine in a car, but it is powered by biofuel. So this car reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% and goes twice as far on a gallon of fuel; yet it also goes really fast and looks great.

In short, the technology is there. The demand is there. If governments lead, investment will follow, business will follow and jobs will follow. That’s how we should deal with global warming instead of trying to make people feel guilty, telling them to reduce the size of their cars. Of course, if people want small cars, that is fine. But there ought to be choice.

If our example in California can just shake the federal government enough to wake it up, then the United States itself can take the lead. That, of course, will have a much bigger impact. If the leadership comes from Washington, then there is a far greater chance of bringing India and China - which will soon be the largest emitter of greenhouse gases - into the fold.

American leadership and the relationship with China are critical in addressing global warming. China is firing up hundreds of new coal-burning plants because it is hungry for megawatts. Why does it need so much energy? Because it is producing goods to ship to American consumers.

We Americans have to understand that every product we buy from China is made with dirty fuel. I think that in the future what we will do is treat those countries which produce goods without regard for the environment the same way as we deal with countries that violate human rights and have sweatshops. As the ultimate consumer, America has a lot of power here.

Global warming has presented humankind with a tough challenge. Since we all share the same planet and breathe the same air, whatever our nationality or political stripe, it only makes sense to work together.

Turning the climate crisis into an opportunity - for investment, clean and green technology and jobs - is a matter of leadership.