Carpinteria, Santa Barbara County --
Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was dogged by persistent protesters
and hecklers Sunday, as he tried to seize the environmental mantle, proposing
a $60 million "hydrogen highway" he said would provide a statewide chain of
hydrogen fueling stations to help clean the air.
"As governor, I will create a network of . . . clean hydrogen fueling
stations every 20 miles," said Schwarzenegger, who provided few specifics on
paying for such a plan.
"These hydrogen highways funded by private-public partnerships will allow
car manufacturers to make good on their pledge to deliver hundreds of
thousands of clean hydrogen cars on the California roads before the end of the
decade," the actor said.
'HE'S A REAL HUMMER DINGER'
California Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger addresses supporters after unveiling his enviromental policy plan at the Bailard Avenue Bluffs in Carpinteria, California, September 21, 2003. Schwarzenegger told the assembled crowd he will seek the input of his critics, like the demonstrators behind him, to determine an enviromental policy everyone could live with. REUTERS/Jim Ruymen
But Schwarzenegger's speech was continually interrupted by hecklers at the
coastal site near Santa Barbara, where demonstrators carried signs reading
"Vote oui on no recall" -- a reference to a racy interview Schwarzenegger gave
more than 25 years ago with Oui men's magazine -- and "He's a real hummer
dinger," a reference to Schwarzenegger's stable of Hummer vehicles.
The protesters arrived early and stationed themselves behind the stage,
forcing the candidate's staff to hastily camouflage their presence with a
large backdrop reading "Join Arnold."
Police later made one arrest after a scuffle when one of the actor's
supporters attempted to take a bullhorn away from Medea Benjamin, a San
Francisco-based Green Party activist who led the protest.
The event handed environmental protesters a chance to assail the record of
the actor-turned-candidate, who arrived in a large SUV, a GMC Yukon.
"You just don't wake up one morning and decide you're an
environmentalist," said Pedro Nava of the California League of Conservation
Voters, pointing toward Schwarzenegger's role in promoting the Hummer -- the
behemoth military vehicle which is one of the least fuel-efficient cars on the
"I say nice try, Arnold, but no cigar," said Nava, who also is a member of
the California Coastal Commission.
Polls show that year after year California voters of all political
persuasions list environmental protection as among their most important issues.
So it is no surprise that Schwarzenegger, who has cast his candidacy as
conservative on fiscal issues but moderate on social policy, would attempt to
court voters in the recall election against Gov. Gray Davis with environmental
'ANOTHER STAGE SET'
But Nava said Sunday's proposal failed to recognize that hydrogen
technology is years, if not decades, away from widespread use.
"This is another stage set for Arnold to deliver rehearsed lines," Nava
Indeed, during his appearance, Schwarzenegger stuck faithfully to a draft
copy of the speech obtained by reporters -- which also indicated specific cues
for the actor. "Behind me (point to the offshore wells) is the past," the
script said. "In front of us (point to cars) is the future."
But longtime GOP fund-raiser Bob Grady, a managing director of the Carlyle
Group, said that as an environmental adviser to Schwarzenegger he is convinced
of the actor's credentials.
"I want a governor, someone who will fight oil drilling and ocean pollution,
" he told the crowd. "Green Republicans have a new champion, and that man is
But speaking later to reporters, the actor could provide few details about
his hydrogen fuel program -- except to say that 95 percent of the money would
come from the federal government.
Asked how he could boast of being an environmental advocate when he owns
five Hummers, Schwarzenegger instead took credit for the vehicle's popularity.
"Eleven years ago, I took the military Hummer and I wanted to prove you
could turn it into a civilian Hummer. . . . Now, as you know, it's the most
As to his new interest in hydrogen-fueled vehicles, Schwarzenegger said his
advisers told him only four weeks ago about efforts to convert vehicles,
including Hummers, from standard gasoline to hydrogen fuel.
"The things I've learned in this last month running for office have been
spectacular," he said.
CRITICISM FOR DAVIS
Schwarzenegger criticized Davis' environmental record, saying, "Gray Davis
has just starting talking about the environment the last few days."
But asked about legislation Davis has signed, including a bill that made
California the first state to ban greenhouse gases, Schwarzenegger responded
"I'm not aware of all those bills he has signed."
And Davis' spokesman, Gabriel Sanchez, said Schwarzenegger's environmental
platform, as posted on the Republican candidate's Web site, mirrors the
governor's programs in such areas as reducing energy consumption and
protecting parks and open space.
"If you look at his environmental plan, imitation is the sincerest form of
flattery," Sanchez said.
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle