GOP seeks environmental lead


Charges that protecting the environment hurts the economy are "bogus," and climate change shouldn't be a political issue, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Friday.

Speaking at a summit organized by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Schwarzenegger said that environmental issues are a cause Republicans can embrace.

"There is no Democratic planet Earth. There is no Republican planet Earth. There's just a planet Earth and we all have a responsibility to take care of it," Schwarzenegger told the crowd of 600.

Crist called the two-day summit to look at the effects of climate change and what can be done to reduce greenhouse gases. He ended the summit by signing orders that will require state agencies to conserve energy and power companies to use more renewable energy.

During his speech, Schwarzenegger acknowledged the perception that Republicans haven't been as strong on environmental issues.

"For me to be in the middle of all this is really wild, because three-and-a-half years ago when I ran for governor, I had environmental protesters following me around saying 'He's a Republican! Please stop! Don't vote for him! He's going to destroy the environment!" Schwarzenegger said.

But now, California leading efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which are blamed for causing the earth's temperatures to rise. He noted the state's use of solar energy and hydrogen fuel and its push for more stringent emissions standards for vehicles.

"We have proven that Republicans can, in fact protect the environment," he said.

Crist ordered the state to adopt California's auto emissions standards as soon as the federal Environmental Protection Agency grants California permission to impose them.

California has been battling the EPA for two years to get permission to implement a state law that would require automakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mainly carbon dioxide. Crist said he is willing to join California if it sues the EPA.

Schwarzenegger said that auto makers and others who say guarding the environment is bad for the economy are just wrong.

"This is all bogus, because we won't have an economy if we destroy our environment," Schwarzenegger said. "We can grow the economy and still simultaneously protect the environment. It's not a choice, it's not either or; the two go hand in hand."

Meanwhile in Washington, Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Barbara Boxer of California said they would sponsor legislation to try to force federal environmental officials to rule on California's new stricter auto emissions standards.

Nelson said Florida and 11 other states are waiting on the EPA to approve the California rules.

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