California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger staged a political comeback in 2007, pushing the nation's most aggressive green agenda. Among other things, he signed legislation forcing public utilities to produce 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020, currently the strictest standard in the U.S. This will roll California's greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 standards.

Since taking office in 2003, Schwarzenegger's broad green vision translated to new enthusiasm for green technology in California government, said Rosario Marin, secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency.

"Now we see everything from hydrogen highways to solar panels that, before four years ago, not many people had," she said.

Schwarzenegger installed solar photovoltaic facilities at eight state sites, cumulatively producing 4.2 MW of electricity. During 2008, the state plans to produce cumulatively up to 24 MW of electricity at additional facilities.

Bucking Republican solidarity, Schwarzenegger locked horns with the Bush administration after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quashed his attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

"EPA's denial of our waiver request to enact the nation's cleanest standards for vehicle emissions is legally indefensible and another example of the failure to treat climate change with the seriousness it demands," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. California is now suing the EPA for denying a waiver needed to set stricter standards than those mandated by the federal Clean Air Act.

Schwarzenegger also implemented an incentive to have solar panels installed on 1 million roofs in the state. Homeowners and businesses using participating energy providers can install solar panels and sell the excess energy they produce back to those providers.

Marin jokes that she was the originator of a popular nickname now associated with Schwarzenegger. "I was the first person to call him the 'Green Giant,'" she said. "Other people have used it, but I was the first one."

Andy Opsahl  |  Staff Writer