Arnold Schwarzenegger, on the George Stephanopoulos show this past Sunday, said that if Barack Obama called and asked him to be “energy czar,” he would take his call. The governor of California would be an asset to either party’s presidential Cabinet. He is of the rare and endangered species of politician with the ability to see and to act on what he sees as well.

“The federal government doesn’t believe in global warming,” he said a few years back. “We do.” End of story, as he says.

Schwarzenegger has taken California forward on environmental issues even in defiance of the federal government, establishing his own treaties with Canadian provinces in opposition to established constitutional lore and mores since 1865. One of his initiatives is to begin to define a north/south continental “hydrogen highway” which requires special filling stations for hydrogen cars, from San Diego to Vancouver.

There is probably enough sentiment in my region of northern New England to run a similar line from Boston to Montreal. Sentiment, yes, but not the political will.

Canadian premiers seem more sympathetic to Schwarzenegger’s innovations than do most state governors. With the concept of “sympathetic regionalism,” an environmental corridor could be visualized from Boston to Montreal, heading west to Vancouver then dropping down to Seattle and California. Hydrogen stations could be plugged in across the trans-Canada route and one could drive from Boston to California through sympathetic regions, leaving behind obstructionist and hide-bound state legislatures entirely.

This would require a different vision of federalism and new initiatives not hide-bound and beholding to a tradition superimposed on an empty frontier. Schwarzenegger, with New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell (R) and a few other innovative governors, seems ready to move forward with new strategies needed to solve our most urgent problems, particularly environmental ones. As wildfires turn the southern regions into desert, California’s very existence may depend on new initiatives.
The Governator also needs to hook up with the world-famous Berkeley restaurateur Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and bring her ideas and vision of "regional produce" and farming to a greater North American understanding. Regionalization of the food supply is a national security issue and an environmental issue. Regionalization of food, and indeed all services, cuts down on travel. It is good for the environment, and in linking food and farmer with people, it is good for the culture.

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