Terry TamminenEarlier today I had a nice long chat with Terry Tamminen, who until recently was Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s top environmental advisor.

It’s safe to say that Tamminen is one of the most influential figures in environmental policy in the country, though he’s not widely known. Through his friendship and professional association with Schwarzenegger, he helped develop a whole range of innovative policies, including the biggie: AB 32, California’s greenhouse-gas reduction bill. (See also the low-emissions-vehicles regulations that got the state sued by automakers.)

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Lives Per GallonTamminen recently left the administration — explicitly, he says, to “Johnny Appleseed” California’s policies and practices to other states. The goal is to build a de facto national climate policy, bypassing the intransigent federal government. As part of that effort he’s released his long-promised book, Lives Per Gallon. It’s a scathing indictment of petroleum, from drilling to refining to selling to burning to deploying large armies to defend. It attempts to tally up the costs of our addiction, and to document the lies and malefactions of the oil industry as it has fought for decades to fend off regulations, crush any competitors, and deceive the public about the costs of its product. It ends with some bold proposals about how to fight back through the courts, exploring a number of legal strategies that might find the industry vulnerable. Definitely a crackling read.

Anyway, the full interview will be up in a week or two. But a couple of things were clear: He’s wicked, wicked smart. And he suffers no fools. So when he says that Arnold really gets the climate issue, I’m inclined to believe him. He also told me some mildly juicy inside scoop about why Arnold chose to oppose Prop 87, but maybe I’ll save that for the interview.

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(Speaking of which, check out our previous interview with Tamminen, from back when he was working for The Man.)