Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday all but called for a Tunisian-style revolution to overturn the United States’ old energy order.
“It is breathtaking to see: people by the hundreds of thousands who want change … who want to throw off the old order and subvert the status quo. It is fascinating to me how rapidly the debate in the Middle East shifted from — could the people rise up to could the rulers hang on?” Scharzenegger said at the United States Department of Energy’s ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in National Harbor, Md., according to his prepared remarks. “And then when the demonstrations reached a critical mass, the old structures gave way. They could not stand up to the momentum of the future.”
“All of which brings me to you here today,” the governator continued. “What you in this room also are saying by the work that you do is: We want to subvert the status quo. We want change. Innovation. We want to overturn the old energy order.”
Schwarzenegger, of course, made climate change and green energy cornerstones of his administration. But in his speech Tuesday before policymakers and politicians gathered at the ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy) he offered a full-throated call to move beyond the tired climate change debate and get on with the job of building a renewable energy economy.
Echoing the themes of last year’s successful campaign to crush Proposition 23, a ballot measure that would have derailed California’s landmark global warming law, Schwarzenegger linked green technology to the creation of jobs, a healthier environment, and international competitiveness.
“We have about 100,000 premature deaths in the U.S. each year from petroleum-related air pollution, and we have 6.5 million annual hospital visits by people with respiratory illnesses caused by the same thing,” Schwarzenegger said. “These deaths are far greater in number than the combined deaths from car accidents, drunk drivers, gang wars, suicides or Iraq and Afghanistan.”
“The suffering and expense of these petro-deaths needs to be recognized,” he added. “Think what it means when in the Central Valley of California one in six children use an inhaler. People need to think about that.”
Schwarzenegger also repeated warnings that other countries threaten to leave the U.S. in the coal dust.
“China has made the decision, backed by billions of dollars, that green is where the economic action is going to be. China is an ancient culture with new ideas,” he added. “We cannot let America be a young culture with old ideas.”
As is his wont, the former governor recalled his bodybuilding days to compare the negative perception of the sport in its early days to views of alternative energy today.
“We needed to change bodybuilding’s whole perception, so it wouldn’t simply be equated with men in skimpy bathing suits,” said Schwarzenegger. “We began using different names — pumping up, working out, fitness training, weight resistance training. We started talking about health benefits and how it improves your performance in sports and how it keeps you younger.
“And now weight training has become an integral part of millions of people’s lives,” he continued. “Today totally normal people talk about their abs and their pecs. Today, in the same way, we are stuck on global climate change. Let’s face it … if we haven’t convinced the skeptics by now, we aren’t going to. So, unless the North Pole breaks off this spring and floats up onto the north shore of Long Island, let’s move past the old arguments.”