Terry TamminenA few months ago, I interviewed Terry Tamminen, author of Lives Per Gallon and, until recently, Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s top environmental adviser. We talked for well over an hour about a wide range of topics. An abridged version of the interview ran in Grist, but I thought some of the ultra-geeks here on Gristmill might enjoy seeing the whole thing. I’ll be running it in installments over the course of the week. I apologize in advance if there’s some overlap with the abridged interview (which I was not involved in producing).

We’ll start today with a short bit on politics.

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DR: Are your hopes high for the new Democratic Congress?

TT: My hopes are high but not — what was the term Alan Greenspan used? — irrationally exuberant, in part because we still have a president who doesn’t get any of this and can veto any legislation he doesn’t like.

DR: He can finally get that veto pen out.

TT: I expect he’ll use it a lot if the Democrats overplay their hand. They might, just for politics, force him to veto stuff to show the Republicans as being out of step leading into 2008. But you’ve got to remember that even though the Democrats now have a majority, there are a lot of business Democrats in there who are going to want to, especially on climate change, approach things fairly cautiously. I don’t think we’ll go as fast or as far as the Boxers might like, or be held back as much as the Dingells might like. There’s a tsunami demanding change that’s somewhere in the middle of that.

DR: John McCain has gotten quite a bit of credit for bucking his party on climate change, at least in supporting the fairly moderate McCain-Lieberman bill. How much of that is just to stoke his image as a maverick? How sincere are he and some of the other Republicans who have broken on this issue?

TT: I don’t know him personally, but from what I’ve heard he is sincere about it. It’s evidenced in his state — the fact that Governor Jennifer Politano, a Republican, was the first to follow California’s climate-planning example. They certainly had some knuckle draggers, but there was even more support among the business community and utilities than in California. So I think he reflects his state.

Whether or not McCain-Lieberman is the right solution, progressive enough, fast enough, is certainly open for debate. But from what I’ve heard, it’s sincerely felt. It’s sincerely felt in the case of Arnold, who’s obviously a moderate Republican. [New York Gov. George] Pataki started the RGGI project in the Northeast. There certainly are some Republicans who have demonstrated that they get these issues and want to do something.