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Arnold's "Hollywood" Eco-Drive | Oil Watchdog

Arnold's "Hollywood" Eco-Drive

Sun, Nov 25, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    Arnold's "Hollywood" Eco-Drive

    The Sunday Independent (South Africa)
    November 25, 2007

    by Edward Robinson

    Schwarzenegger’s ecological drive may be just more Hollywood

    Overnight, the former Mr. Universe had morphed from a gun-toting
    action movie star into a leading contender to become chief executive of
    the world’s eighth-largest economy.

    The date was August 9 2003, the election was less than two
    months away, and he was rushing to form a platform. Needing to reach
    progressive Californians, he put global warming near the top of his
    list.

    Spending the weekend with his wife, Maria Shriver, a member of
    the Kennedy clan, in Hyannis Port, Schwarzenegger discussed his ideas
    with Robert Kennedy junior, an outspoken environmentalist. Kennedy put
    him in touch with Terry Tamminen, an activist on water pollution in
    southern California.

    Tamminen was sceptical. A fund raiser for Al Gore, he was
    critical of the Republican record – especially the Bush
    administration’s rejection in 2001 of the UN’s Kyoto protocol to curb
    greenhouse gases. Now this Hummer-driving Republican was asking him for
    advice.

    "The Republican Party hadn’t covered itself with environmental
    glory," says Tamminen, the author of Lives Per Gallon: The True Cost of
    Our Oil Addiction. "Then I thought, this man could be the next
    governor, so don’t we want to make sure he has the most progressive
    policies? I decided to dive in."

    Three years later, the governor ushered in the Global Warming
    Solutions Act, the first US legislation of its kind. The law, signed on
    September 27 last year, requires California’s industries to reduce
    greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels before 2020 — a 25 percent
    cut.

    Five states passed similar laws this year, while five bills in
    the US senate and house of representatives are pressing for 14 percent
    carbon dioxide reduction targets by 2020.

    "California is the model," says Daniel Esty, the director of
    the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy. "Governors in a
    dozen states are now taking the issue seriously, and the groundwork is
    being laid for a federal policy."

    Hollywood script

    Other leaders rang the climate alarm much earlier. Gore called
    for changes when he was vice-president and heightened the debate with
    his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, while former UK prime minister
    Tony Blair championed Kyoto.

    Yet America’s global warming script is being written by an
    actor who wowed Hollywood as an unstoppable cyborg called the
    Terminator.

    "I was very determined to prove you could create economic
    growth and protect the environment simultaneously. I knew my strength
    was being a Republican. I could win the business community over," he
    says.

    US policy will have huge ramifications for the rest of the
    world: it is the second-biggest source of greenhouse gases after China.
    If average global temperatures rise between 1.1 C and 5.5 C by 2100, as
    many scientists predict, it could jeopardize the water supply for a
    projected 60 million Californians.

    Deteriorating air quality, coastal erosion, pest infestation
    and monster wildfires could also convulse the state, the 12th-largest
    emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.

    Such scenarios could befall entire continents, according to
    this year’s report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
    Change.

    Big problems

    "I love tackling big problems," the governor said in June. "I don’t like incremental steps. I like big things."

    There are few things bigger than melting icecaps and rising
    oceans. Schwarzenegger’s critics suspect his crusade is more Hollywood
    razzle-dazzle than a hard-nosed policy that will succeed in cutting
    carbon.

    Jamie Court, the president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and
    Consumer Rights, says the governor is an opportunist who seized on
    global warming because going green has become a popular issue.

    Unlike Gore, who has called for action since the early 1990s,
    Schwarzenegger didn’t present himself as a global warming warrior until
    2005.

    "He deserves credit for pulling off a massive show," Court
    says. "But when the public doesn’t see results, they shouldn’t be
    surprised."

    But environmentalists who have worked with Schwarzenegger say he has become an influential ally.

    "He’s serious about getting this right, and no one else could
    get the kind of media attention he can," says Fran Pavley, a former
    Democrat from southern California who co-authored the global warming
    law.

    Bulging coffers

    Venture capitalists have poured funds into his election coffers
    as well as into start-ups making everything from clean coal to ethanol
    derived from wood chips.

    "Renewable energy is the next big growth cycle," says Vinod
    Khosla, the founder of Khosla Ventures. He gave $20 000 (R136 000) to
    the governor’s 2006 re-election bid. "I believe that because California
    has this global warming law, you will see the next 10 Googles emerge
    here."

    Timothy Draper, a founder and managing director of venture firm
    Draper Fisher Jurvetson, has contributed $318 000 to Schwarzenegger
    since 2003. His firm is the top clean-tech investor in Silicon Valley.

    Draper Fisher invests in start-ups such as Tesla Motors, which
    makes zero-emission, electric-powered sports cars. Elon Musk, Tesla’s
    primary investor, donated $22 300 to the governor’s 2006 campaign.
    Earlier this year, Schwarzenegger in turn test-drove Tesla’s new
    roadster.

    But Schwarzenegger’s zeal for such green ventures has prompted
    his staff to make controversial moves, according to Robert Sawyer, who
    chaired the California Air Resources Board from 2005 to until he was
    fired in June. The body is charged with making rules to implement the
    global warming law.

    In February, when Tesla was searching for a site outside
    California to assemble its luxury White Star sedan, Dan Dunmoyer, the
    governor’s cabinet secretary, directed Sawyer to allocate $5 million
    from a fund for alternative fuels to Tesla to encourage it to build in
    the state.

    Public funds

    Sawyer refused. He said there had been no tender and he didn’t
    consider Tesla, a maker of luxury cars for the rich, to be a wise
    choice for special treatment. Tesla wound up choosing a site in New
    Mexico.

    The governor has built close ties to corporate interests. Since
    2003 his campaigns have raked in $121 million from businesses and
    individual donors, making him California’s most prolific political
    fundraiser.

    Wall Street traders are champing at the bit to cash in on the
    agenda. The governor is overseeing the establishment of a cap-and-trade
    market set to open in 2012 for buying and selling carbon emission
    credits.
    Companies that emit carbon at a level below the cap will be able to
    sell emission credits to firms that want to emit more than the cap.

    "We’re looking to California to be the biggest pool of
    liquidity in the US and a precursor to a national cap-and-trade
    system," says Paul Ezekiel, the New York head of carbon trading for
    Credit Suisse.

    Citizen advocacy groups, however, worry that consumers will
    bear the costs, pointing to the last time the state turned to the
    financial markets for a policy fix: the deregulation of its power
    industry in the late 1990s. Manipulation by Enron and the ensuing
    blackouts were one reason for Gray’s recall.

    On the other side, industries such as agriculture,
    manufacturing and petroleum fear the global warming push could impose
    burdensome costs, forcing them out of the state.

    The energy industry has contributed $4.3 million to the
    governor’s campaigns, and oil firms are adamant that a carbon market
    play a substantial role in meeting California greenhouse gas reduction
    targets under the law, says Catherine Reheis-Boyd, a lobbyist for Big
    Oil.

    "The governor doesn’t believe environmental regulation and
    economic prosperity are mutually exclusive," she says. "Our goal is to
    point out that this is a core principle, and he cannot move away from
    that."

    But Ezekiel says the state must impose tough cuts to make
    credits valuable and the market viable.
    "We’re going to want real base-line data and rigorous caps," he says.
    "We want industry to make meaningful reductions." That’s one area where
    Wall Street and environmentalists can agree, he says.

    Shaky start

    For all the attention, the law has erased not a single gram of
    carbon dioxide from California’s air. The Air Resources Board is just
    one year into a six-year process of converting the law’s intentions
    into enforceable regulations. It got off to a shaky start when chairman
    Sawyer and chief executive Catherine Witherspoon broke with
    Schwarzenegger on the best way forward.

    The board had to issue "early action" regulations by July 1.
    The governor signed off on three, including a fuel standard requiring
    petrol producers to cut the carbon content in fuel by 10 percent by
    2020.

    Sawyer tried to add a fourth item: a requirement that vehicles
    sold in the state use cool paints, which reflect more sunlight than
    usual tints, lessening the need for air conditioning and reducing fuel
    consumption.

    Sawyer’s move clashed with Schwarzenegger’s policy of not
    dictating how companies should build their products. The governor fired
    Sawyer in a June 22 letter. Witherspoon resigned in protest days after.

    The board’s rough summer is a preview of the difficulties
    leading to 2012, when its rules will be enforced. By then,
    Schwarzenegger will be two years out of office.

    In the next decades, the world will see whether the governor’s
    global warming crusade turns into good policy, big profits, smart
    politics — or just more Hollywood.

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