Energy Ideas Democrats and Republicans Agree On

The former Republican governor of California lays out the case for putting large solar farms in the Mojave desert as part of a serious energy policy based on improving public health, boosting the economy, and avoiding the risks of the fossil economy.


I'm glad The Atlantic is spotlighting this important subject, but let's face it: asking whether large solar power plants are appropriate in the Mojave desert is like wondering whether subways make sense in New York City.

energy_bug_1.pngDuring my seven years as California's governor, we led the nation in protecting the environment at the same time that we were protecting and growing our economy. This was not just talk. We won a legal battle with the federal government that will make cars more fuel efficient in California and the rest of the nation. We enacted laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We established the 25 million-acre Sierra Nevada Conservancy and preserved hundreds of thousands of additional acres up and down our state. But as I said three years ago in a speech at Yale University, if we can't put solar power plants in the Mojave Desert, I don't know where we can put them. In other words, we need to worry less about a few dozen desert tortoises and more about the economic prosperity, security and health of our nation.

President Obama has correctly identified national goals for clean electricity and reduced dependence on foreign oil. Now we need the laws and policies to make them happen.

What we must have -- finally -- is a long-term, comprehensive energy policy that gets America off fossil fuels and makes us energy independent. A policy we stick with regardless of fluctuations in the price of oil or whatever type of energy is in favor at the moment.

But first we have to change the way we talk about and frame the issue.

For too long we have been fighting about greenhouse gases and global warming, about whether the oceans are rising and whether the science can be trusted. All that's gotten us is stuck and polarized. Let's face it, if we haven't convinced the skeptics by now, we aren't going to.

So it is time to move past areas Democrats and Republicans disagree on and focus on issues they see eye to eye on. Issues like economic prosperity, national security and the health and welfare of our people.

For most Americans, the biggest problem facing our nation right now is the economy and jobs. People are worried about the future. About whether their children will live in a nation that falls behind China and other rapidly growing economies.

From my experience in California, it is absolutely clear that a green economy is the way to keep Americans competitive abroad while providing economic growth and jobs at home.

Green jobs are the largest source of employment growth in California, with green tech jobs growing 10 times faster than other sectors over the last five years.

In California, we are building the world's biggest solar plants, the biggest wind farm. That will boost our economy with green jobs and it will protect our environment with clean energy. Democrats and Republicans can all support that kind of progress.

More than a third of the world's clean-tech venture capital flows into our state because investors know California is committed to a clean-energy future. Nations like China and Brazil are just two of the countries making big commitments to green tech. It's time America got into the game.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger was the 38th governor of California.

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