'We Are a Nation-State'

That he's a cigar-smoking environmentalist, says Arnold Schwarzenegger, allows him to do one of the things he loves most: defy stereotypes.

After taping a cameo on MTV's "Pimp My Ride," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was whisked by his CHP motorcade to his favorite Beverly Hills café. While puffing on a stogie and greeting other regulars including producer Norman Lear, Schwarzenegger spoke with NEWSWEEK's Karen Breslau about his views on global warming, George W. Bush—and how to avoid eco-guilt. Excerpts:

BRESLAU: Do you find your fellow Republicans feel betrayed, like you've turned into a tree hugger?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I don't think they say I did something that is destroying them, because even if they don't believe in it, what's the harm? There are Republican governors who want [environmental reforms], but they haven't figured out how to go there. They ask me, "How do you get away with this among Republicans?" I've told them, "Look, if you need me to come to your state and campaign so you can talk about it, I'm there."

Your cousin-in-law Bobby Kennedy Jr. said in a speech that the Bush administration had the worst environmental record in American history. When you're sitting there across the Thanksgiving table, would you agree?
Umm. I think when I get together with Bobby we talk about all the great things we are doing out here and how we can move things forward. He knows I'm not into criticizing people and looking for what is bad. I look for what is good. And you know, I think people will look at that record and will make up their own mind.

What do you expect out of Congress?
Legislation to fight global warming by reducing the greenhouse gases, setting very tough goals with a cap in place like we have done in California, and creating carbon-fuel standards to force us to use less. We need laws, not just dialogue, because for 50 years we've been talking about how this country should be less dependent on oil, and we have done nothing about it. I hope Congress shows some leadership there. Still, the states have already done it and have come up with their own standards.

You like to call California a nation-state.
What we do here will have such a huge impact. We have such an unbelievable influence on the rest of the globe. We are a nation-state. We are the sixth largest, seventh largest economy in the world. We make our own deals with countries, with Japan, with China and Canada. We rely on the federal government, but we are also relying on ourselves. We're acting as a new country.

And the low-carbon-fuel standard. Is that something you want to export to the rest of the country?
Yes. And to the rest of the world.

You seem to promote a fun-loving environmentalism, not the put-on-your-cardigan and turn-down the-thermostat variety. Don't people need to practice some abstinence?
Let me talk about big cars, big engines, SUVs, trucks, airplanes. The bottom line is not to see the size of the engine, but the problem is that you want to replace greenhouse-gas emissions. God bless you if you like your little cars, but the real trick is, let's go and create engines that do not emit greenhouse gases. Take hydrogen. Total elimination. So you can "pimp out" a dump truck. So that is what we should focus on—alternative fuel and alternative engines that run different things that are more efficient and less greenhouse emissions. You will see in no time all of California's vehicles that are owned by the state will be clean fuel or hybrid.

You can afford $100,000 to convert your Hummer to hydrogen or $70,000 for a biodiesel conversion, but how many people can go out and do that?
There are cost issues always at the beginning. I was one of the first ones to have a cell phone. It cost me about $1,600. Now you can get $29 cell phones! These concept cars always go for a million dollars, but when they mass-produce them, the cost is going to go down.

So consume, but consume wisely?
I like when people want to switch to something lighter, I think that's great. But I think that my wife, she feels more comfortable in an SUV. With so many kids in her car, she feels more protected. But my wife feels bad about it. She wishes at the same time they can put a device in it which I'm working on with [Rep.] Dana Rohrbacher; it's like a box that you put in your car in the back and it takes 40 to 50 percent of the greenhouse gases out of your fuel. All the women that drive those SUVs, all the guys would like to feel better, to have a device. If the company offers them the alternative and says, "It will cost you an extra $2,000 to put this in and then we take 40 percent off your greenhouse gases." Now you have a deal. It's technology.

So this is a new California movement.
I think you have an unbelievable opportunity to go really all out and to make this something that everyone in the world writes about us, gets inspired by us, copies us, follows us.