Entries Tagged as 'Schwarzenegger'

Goes Green

March 3rd, 2011 at 8:48 am 7 Comments

In Congress, there are glass-half-empty Republicans who cringe that any effort to cut the apron strings of fossil fuel dependence would result in economic disaster.

Outside Congress, glass-half-full Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger is a throwback to an earlier breed of Republican leaders who got big things done for the country without a lot of handwringing.

Like building the Transcontinental Railroad (Lincoln).

And the Panama Canal (Theodore Roosevelt).

And the Interstate Highway System (Eisenhower, who in his previous career smashed the Nazi war machine).

Hell, even in the depths of the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover summoned the nation’s energies to start building the huge Colorado River dam that bears his name.

The glass-half-empty Republicans want to rehash the science of climate change – again and again and again.

Glass-half-full Schwarzenegger, in a barnburner speech Tuesday to the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy summit, said there are plenty of reasons to make an energy shift that have nothing to do with climate change. Pointless debates with those who will never accept climate change evidence is no longer a good use of time and resources.

Not when 100,000 people die every year as a result of air pollution linked to fossil fuel burning.

Not when turmoil in a “dried up little country like Libya with a crazy dictator” can set off tremors in the world oil market and threaten America’s shaky economic recovery.

Not when there’s money to be made designing, building, and selling energy technologies that won’t kill people or tie the U.S. economy and national security to the vicissitudes of tinhorn autocrats.

Schwarzenegger threw a few ideas on the table for reframing America’s dysfunctional energy debates and building broad support for supplementing our fossil fuel diet with cleaner, healthier energy choices.

First, however, because the question is bound to arise, why would anyone take cues from California? Its economy is weak and the state’s budget gap is a chasm.

California’s energy initiatives did not inflate the real estate bubble that hammered it and other states, nor did it bring about the ghastly political extremism in Sacramento – on the left and right – that was a big factor in putting the state into a fiscal bind.

Imagine how much worse off California’s households would be if they were spending as much money on wasted energy as households in less energy-efficient states.

So, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Schwarzenegger’s energy advice:

Talk about money. California uses electric power 40 percent more efficiently than the rest of the country. If the U.S. used energy as efficiently as the Golden State, households would save $560 on their power bills every year. Fuel efficiency standards modeled on California policies would save motorists $1,300 per year. Together, the savings could be used for purposes more economically productive than throwing it away on wasted energy.

Talk about jobs. A 33 percent renewable energy standard, similar to California’s, would put capital and people to work building squeaky clean new power plants to replace dirty old ones – like the hundreds of coal-fired power plants that lack pollution controls.

Talk about health. In addition to 100,000 deaths, air pollution results in 6.5 million hospital visits every year by people with respiratory disease. Hospitalizations and lost workdays cost money too.

Finally, talk about American leadership. Glass-half-empty worrywarts say the U.S. shouldn’t do anything about cutting fossil fuel use unless China moves first. Glass-half-full American leaders are not in the habit of deferring to foreign countries.

As Schwarzenegger put it: “When we landed on the moon, we didn’t say to the Russians, ‘Why don’t you try it first?’”

No, we didn’t. As history bears out, whenever we take a glass-half-full view of the world, America gets great things done.