In tonight’s debate, much to my surprise, the Republican candidates got a direct question about the California waiver. Also rather to my surprise, all four said they support California’s right to a waiver.

It’s amazing how isolated Johnson (*cough*Cheney*cough*) is on this. Not one of his party’s standard-bearers will back him up. That is some sad sh*t.

Here’s the portion of the debate on Pavley and climate change:

[L.A. TIMES‘ JANET] HOOK: This is for Senator McCain.

Senator McCain, Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed that California be allowed to implement much tougher environmental regulations on emission requirements than apply to the rest of the country. This is an initiative that conservatives generally oppose, and the Bush administration rejected California’s request.

Do you side with the governor or with the Bush administration?

MCCAIN: Well, there’s some physical danger. I have to agree…

(LAUGHTER)

… with the governor.

Look, I’m a federalist. And I believe the states should decide to enormous degrees what happens within those states, including off their coasts. The people of California have decided they don’t want oil drilling off their coasts. The people of Louisiana have decided that they do.

I applaud the governor’s efforts and that of other states in this region and other states across America to try to eliminate the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change.

Now, suppose that the governor and I are wrong, and there’s no such thing as climate change. And we adopt these green technologies, of which America and the innovative skills we have and the entrepreneurship and the free market which is embodied by Senator Lieberman’s and mine cap-and-trade proposal is enacted, and there’s no such thing as climate change. Then all we’ve done is give our kids a cleaner world.

But suppose we do nothing. Suppose we do nothing, and we don’t eliminate this $400 billion dependence we have on foreign oil. Some of that money goes to terrorist organizations and also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Then what kind of a world have we given our children?

The state of California and the state of Arizona, we Westerners care very much about our environment and we want to act. And it’s no secret that I have disagreed with the Bush administration in not being more active in addressing the issue of climate change, whether it be through cap-and-trade, through tax incentives for R&D for green technologies and many other measures that I think need to be taken.

We are feeling here in California pollution from China. It is a global issue, and we have to address it globally. And I would not agree to any global agreement without India and China being part of it.

But I want to assure you that we have an obligation to try to stem these greenhouse gas emissions. And one of the ways is through the use of nuclear power. The French generate 80 percent of their electricity with nuclear power.

I think that — by the way, we now have a pro-American president in France, which shows if you live long enough, anything is possible in this world.

But the point is, young Americans care. Californians care. People all over this country care. And we have to address this issue.

We can do it. The greatness and strength of America is in our innovative capability and our ability to develop these green technologies.

General Electric, the world’s largest corporation, is committed to green technologies. We can do it.

And to somehow believe that it will cost more money if we unleash the innovative and entrepreneurship of America I think does not have confidence in the ability of Americans to address this issue.

COOPER: Governor Romney, what did you think of Senator McCain’s response? And just to remind you, the original question is do you side with Governor Schwarzenegger or with the Bush administration on this issue?

ROMNEY: Well, I side with states to be able to make their own regulations with regards to emissions within their own states.

But let’s talk about our policies with regards to greenhouse gases and global warming.

I think we all agree that America should become energy independent. The consequences of us continuing to buy over $1 billion of oil a day from people who oftentimes use this money against us is bad for our economy; it’s bad for our foreign policy; and all that energy being used is probably bad for our environment.

It’s probably warming our environment. And we want that to stop. So a unilateral action to get ourselves off of foreign oil makes all the sense in the world.

Nuclear power, biodiesel, biofuel, all the renewables, liquefied coal, where you sequester the carbon dioxide, those things make all the sense in the world.

But when you put in place a new cap or a mandate, and particularly if you don’t have any safety valve as to how much the cost of that cap might be, you would impose on the American people, if you do it unilaterally, without involving all the world, you’d impose on the American people a huge new effective tax: 20 percent on utilities, 50 cents a gallon for gasoline — that’s according to the energy information agency — would be imposed on us.

And here’s what happens. I’ve lived in the business world. I’ve lived in the real economy for 25 years of my life. What happens if you do that? You put a big burden on energy in this country as the energy-intensive industries say, "We’re going to move our new facilities from America to China, where they don’t have those agreements."

And you end up polluting and putting just as much CO2 in the air because the big energy users go there. That’s why these ideas make sense, but only on a global basis.

They don’t call it "America warming." They call it "global warming." That’s why you’ve got to have a president that understands the real economy.

COOPER: Just so I’m clear, you said you side with the states. That means you side with Governor Schwarzenegger on this one?

ROMNEY: I side with states being able to make their own decisions, even if I don’t always agree with the decisions they make.

COOPER: Governor Huckabee?

HUCKABEE: Well, I was a governor 10 1/2 years. I was chairman of the National Governors Association, which means that my fellow governors selected me to chair the organization of all 50 governors.

Let me tell you why I believe that Governor Schwarzenegger ought to be able to carry out the plan, because, if he’s right, every other state is going to copy him. And if he’s wrong, every other state is going to recruit the jobs that he lost in California to their own states.

The genius of our system has always been that, if you have states acting as laboratories of good government, rather than mess it up for all 50 states, you get the chance to find out, does it work? And if it does, we all copy it, and then we make a little change, and we claim it for our own.

If it doesn’t work, we do everything we can to make sure that the jobs that maybe he loses we get in our own state. It’s the genius of our founding fathers when they had the idea of federalism. Thomas Jefferson was right, and Alexander Hamilton was wrong. That debate we thought was settled.

But we’ve got a federal government that wants to give us unfunded mandates at the state level and doesn’t want us to experiment with ideas in good government that might solve a lot of the problems that our country faces.

COOPER: Congressman Paul, do you agree with Governor Schwarzenegger on this one?

PAUL: Yes, I think California should do what they want, and we all recognize that. But one thing that hasn’t been emphasized here that should be emphasized when we’re dealing with the environment and gas house — you know, greenhouse gases is property rights.

We neglected during the industrial revolution property rights, and governments and big corporations got together and colluded. And that’s what has to be reversed. You have to emphasize the property rights.