Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Not So "Green"!!!

From AlterNet:

California's "Green" Governor's Love Affair with His Private Jet

By Bill Walker, Environmental Working Group
Posted on March 11, 2008

Sacramento's not such a bad place: The summer heat and lousy air quality are balanced by the outdoor recreational opportunities and an unpretentious, small-town feel. But if you're a international movie star used to the bright lights of Hollywood and you somehow get yourself elected governor of California, surely you can't be expected to actually live there.

The first governor to fit that description, Ronald Reagan, had nothing against Sacramento per se, but Nancy found the historic governor's mansion near the Capitol a dump. The state built a new residence in the suburbs that became a white elephant after Jerry Brown decided he preferred a mattress on the floor of a studio apartment.

Today we have Arnold Schwarzenegger, who at first toyed with the idea of buying a home and moving his family to Sacramento, then took up residence in a hotel penthouse across the street from his office. But he missed his kids in Brentwood, and he already had a private jet at his disposal, so of late he's been flying home at night and back in the morning. It's a three-hour round trip, not that extreme a commute in California today.

The governor pays for his jet-set commute from his own pocket -- more than half-a-million dollars a year. But wait? Isn't this the same Arnold Schwarzenegger who last year was featured on magazine covers as an environmental hero? The same one who flexed his muscles to lead California's fight against global warming? The one who must be aware of the vast amount of global-warming gases and air pollution his jet is spewing?

Yep, same guy. The Los Angeles Times' Evan Halper and Michael Rothfield broke the story last week:

The governor's Gulfstream jet does nearly as much damage to the environment in one hour as a small car does in a year, according to figures compiled by the Helium Report, an online publication for buyers of luxury items.

Administration officials say Schwarzenegger is well aware of this and makes amends by purchasing pollution credits for the carbon dioxide his jet releases. The credits fund efforts worldwide to reduce greenhouse gases, such as projects that harness energy from wind, landfill gas and farm waste, although they don't eliminate the pollution from Schwarzenegger's plane.

Flying the Gulfstream and other jets the governor uses costs as much as $10,000 an hour. Some conservationists say Schwarzenegger is essentially attempting to buy a clean conscience with the carbon offsets, which cost about $43 an hour.

He has been very bold on all these [environmental] initiatives, so it is sad to see him undercut that," said Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation, a philanthropy that funds conservation efforts in Western states. "If you are going to be talking about an issue, you should be living the reality you are trying to embrace.

Don't get me started on pollution credits, but it's better than doing nothing. To be fair, Arnold shouldn't be singled out as the only climate hypocrite in government. Even the greenest members of Congress fly back to their home districts every weekend, and some members of the Legislature who live as far from Sacramento as the Bay Area drive back and forth every day, in state-supplied vehicles.

As someone who lived in the Big Tomato for a few years, back when it was hard to find an espresso, I know about the lure of I-80 or Southwest Airlines on Friday afternoon. If you've got your own jet, why not every day?

Here's why not: This governor has gone out on a limb to promote himself as a global warming warrior. It's a laudable stance that has genuinely helped move America toward a greener politics. This latest flap is a rare PR slipup for a master of the game, but it could make some Californians -- like, all of us who don't own a jet -- think twice about how well his walk matches his talk.

Bill Walker is a native Texan in exile in California, who runs the west coast office of Environmental Working Group.

© 2008 Environmental Working Group All rights reserved.View this story online at:


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