What Arnold’s memoirs need: A chapter on his betrayal of California
April 16, 2012
By Chris Reed
“More than 2,000 people responded: Talk about bodybuilding, your childhood and your time on movie sets, they wrote,” said an account in the Sacramento Bee. “Talk about politics. And sex.”
But the former governor’s upcoming book is unlikely to truthfully detail perhaps the most profound and far-reaching action of Schwarzenegger’s life: his decision to betray Californians and saddle their economy with a permanent burden because of his determination to be remembered as a green icon.
I refer to Schwarzenegger’s 2006 decision to embrace and sign AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 – a bill forcing California utilities to switch to cleaner but much costlier forms of energy and establishing a cap-and-trade pollution credits market for heavy industries.
The state media’s amazingly incompetent and biased coverage of AB 32 treats it as an open question whether forcing California businesses to pay much higher costs for energy than firms in rival states and nations will help them or hurt them. Reporters covering energy and the environment also never mention the very related fact that one of the main rationales for AB 32 — that it would inspire the rest of America and the rest of the world to copy the Golden State in fighting global warming — never came to pass.
The result is that as AB 32 is phased in, California products will have an increasingly large competitive disadvantage because of the de facto green energy surcharge their price includes.
Congress has figured out it’s not a good policy for the United States to go it alone in switching to costlier but cleaner energy. It’s why cap-and-trade legislation died in 2009 — when Democrats still controlled both the House and Senate.
The Obama administration also understands go-it-alone is folly. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu put it in stark terms in March 2009 congressional testimony. He said that if a United States switch to cleaner energy wasn’t copied by other nations, the United States should essentially start a trade war by putting tariffs on their products to erase the competitive disadvantage the United States suffered for trying to save the world from climate change.
And while Schwarzenegger never gets in the way of his self-aggrandizing Global Green Giant narrative, there is plenty of evidence that he too knows go-it-alone verges on economic suicide. In 2006, he forced legislators to include a provision allowing the governor to suspend AB 32 if the economy were in poor shape. In March 2010, in a letter to the California Air Resources Board that the reliably buffoonish state media ignored, Schwarzenegger even hinted that it might be a good idea to delay implementing AB 32 until it were part of a larger national climate-change policy.
The law should be integrated “as seamlessly as possible into a comprehensive national strategy,” he wrote. “Given the importance of interstate and international trade to California’s economy, we must design our program to ensure that California companies are appropriately positioned to compete under any future federal or international program.”
Nine months later, Schwarzenegger left the governor’s office, determined to buff his image as a green idol and never again to offer the slightest hint that AB 32 was anything but the greatest single act of leadership since President Truman embraced the Marshall Plan. Ever since, he’s traveled the world to accept kudos for his great foresight and brilliant leadership in saving the planet.
Except that AB 32 didn’t inspire the rest of the world. As a result, it won’t reduce the emissions that are believed by many scientists to contribute to global warming. Instead, such emissions are surging, not receding — especially in China and India, the very nations that are likely to be California’s most significant trade rivals in the 21st century. Nations that will enjoy a permanent competitive advantage over the Golden State — much cheaper energy — because of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Will this be mentioned in Arnold’s memoirs? Of course not. But in time, as the evidence grows that California’s extremely costly energy kills jobs — and reduces disposable income for those with jobs — AB 32’s destructive futility will be impossible to ignore.
The green cultists in the state media — the ones who unlike Congress and Steven Chu couldn’t figure out that self-imposed competitive disadvantages are a bad thing — will be the last ones to abandon Arnold’s ship. But the permanent California recession that AB 32 is likely to create will be impossible for the rest of us to ignore.
All because an egomaniacal action star turned politician was desperate for a legacy.
I have no idea what pun or spin will be used in the title of Schwarzenegger’s memoirs. But I know what the title would be were I the author: “Benedict Arnold.”