True Colors

How did Arnold Schwarzenegger, a red governor in America's biggest blue state, win reelection? Simple: He mapped out a future in green.

Mar 29, 2007
Outside Magazine
Arnold Schwarzenegger

Sam Jones

OUTSIDE: You've come a long way since The Terminator. Did you ever imagine you'd be considered a big-time environmentalist?
SCHWARZENEGGER: There are a lot of things I didn't envision five, ten years ago. In those days my plans were to be successful in show business. But when I decided to run for governor, I made it very clear. I asked TerryTamminen [the first secretary of California's Environmental Protection Agency under Schwarzenegger] to come on board, and he is probably the most brilliant guy around when it comes to the environment. I connected to him through Bobby Kennedy. I told him that one of the things I wanted to do as governor, even if it's not something that's expected of me as a Republican, is to include environmental issues in my campaign. I feel very strongly that we have polluted our air and ocean water and our coastline tremendously. I remember we had a big press conference during that campaign talking about improving the carbon-emissions standards and cleaning the air. And all of this is just follow-through.

Some pundits say your recent environmental work saved you in the 2006 election.
That's very hard to judge. Let's not forget that the first year we passed legislation to put aside 25 million acres of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. Of course, in 2006 it was a breakthrough to pass AB32, which will lower the greenhouse-gas emissions in California to 1990 levels by the year 2020. This year, after the election, we followed up and made another aggressive step to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from the transportation sector.

You've called climate change an indisputable threat. Are you satisfied with how your own party has responded to that threat?
I don't look at it as a party issue as much as that we need to have everyone come together on this. We try to form partnerships on the left and the right. Now it's a matter of time. Now you see states jumping on it. Countries are jumping on it. Some people are still back in the Stone Age, saying, "I still question this whole thing about global warming." But anyone dragging their feet on this, we will help them along. Through public pressure we'll make them change. Some people take time—I didn't jump on it right away when I heard about it 20 years ago.

Do you plan to exert much pressure on the 2008 presidential candidates? You'll certainly have an opportunity if California moves its primary schedule up.
We're all very lucky that we have candidates that are already talking about the importance of the environment, Democrats and Republicans. I, myself, have heard it directly. McCain and Giuliani talk about it. So that is incredible. I'm proud of that.

Are you someone who believes industry can drive this movement?
Oh, I'm a huge believer in that, because everything is like walking a tightrope, where you make a step to the right you can fall, you make a step to the left you can fall. You have to really find that line and include as many people from the environmental side and the industry side, so you can figure out how to pass the laws. If we do things the right way, without any doubt it can be much more profitable for our economy and for our industries. So now we're going from industry to industry and trying to inspire them.

Speaking of big industries, what kind of vehicle are you driving these days?
I drive with the California Highway Patrol 99 percent of the time, so all kinds of vehicles, normally SUVs. But before I became governor, I talked to GM about creating a hydrogen-fueled Hummer, and two years ago they delivered one. I changed one of my military Hummers over from regular diesel to biofuel. When I drive it around, it smells like French fries!

Do you think California's strict fuel standards have hurt the big car companies?
One of the greatest victories we've had was this last car show in Los Angeles. I remember three years ago, there were a dozen alternative-fuel vehicles at the show. This year, they had three dozen. We did a big press conference with heads of the various manufacturers. And may I remind you, most of those companies are suing us because of California's fuel standards. They say [the standards] are illegal, that California can't make its own standards, that it has to be a federal decision. But even knowing that, we invited everyone to come here and to be part of that press conference. We wanted to let them know that we want to do business with them, we want them to be successful. But we will never change back our fuel standards. We will never change back our greenhouse-gas-emissions standards. The train has left, and if you are going to march forward, the regulations are only going to get tougher, they are not going to get easier.

Filed To: Politics, Culture

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