CALIFORNIA:

Schwarzenegger defends nuclear, sugarcane ethanol

LOS ANGELES -- Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) lobbied for more nuclear plants and an end to tariffs on sugarcane ethanol imports yesterday.

Speaking at a North American carbon markets conference, Schwarzenegger said the need for energy security trumps the risk of radiation leaks. "We've got to go on building new nuclear plants," he said. "We need to get away from foreign oil, that's the most important thing."

He conceded that California's two nuclear plants might not be prepared to withstand an earthquake of the magnitude that struck Japan last month. "Our plants are not built for 9.0 earthquakes," he said. "That doesn't mean you should take them out, but you should learn from it."

"When a truck loses brakes, you don't go out of the trucking business, but you look at how to improve those brakes."

Schwarzenegger also advised federal policymakers to remove the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported sugarcane-based ethanol. "It is a crime that we do not import the sugar-based biofuel from Brazil," he said. "It's not like corn-based fuels, which don't really reduce greenhouse gases the way we thought of. It is all in the end a lack of leadership in Washington."

Schwarzenegger's predecessor, Gov. Gray Davis (D), was more circumspect about nuclear's prospects but was bullish for the same reasons as Schwarzenegger. "I think we should take a look at nuclear," Davis said. "It's just insanity to base our energy policy on the whims of the global oil market."

California has had a moratorium on new nuclear plants for 35 years over spent-fuel concerns. But pragmatism should win out, Davis said. "Getting energy is a messy business," he said. "It's hard to get 100 percent of your electricity and transportation needs in a nice, clean way. It's just not going to happen."

That covers traditional renewables, as well, he said. "When we're trying to build renewables out in the desert and people say, 'I don't like the noise of the wind farms or the glare of the solar panels and don't want a transmission line coming within 5 miles of my home' -- get real! You have to make choices in life.

"At the end of the day there are going to be some difficult choices that the progressive movement will have to face up to."