As Californian continues to falter amongst double-digit unemployment, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is fighting to keep the Golden State’s environmental initiatives a top priority, according to a Los Angeles Times article.

Among the people that the governor is battling are some of his fellow Republicans as well as a slowly growing number of Californians who believe that the environment should be pushed aside until the economy recovers.

Former businesswoman Meg Whitman, Schwarzenegger’s rival in next year’s election, says that she will “reject environmental policies that do little for the environment and wreak havoc on California’s economic future.”

“Liberal environmentalists may not like jobs or people, but California needs both,” said Whitman at a recent party convention.

Ouch, that hurts.

Schwarzeneggar disagrees, arguing that there doesn’t need to be a choice between a better environment and a better economy; California can have both.

“When I came into office there was this kind of belief that you can only protect the environment or the economy," the governor said. “We don't have to accept that.”

Meanwhile, many environmentalists are caught in the crosshairs of a nation looking to blame somebody for the country’s economic woes.

But Sierra Club California director Bill Magavern is just one environmentalist insisting that there is no cause and effect between environmental initiatives like California’s global warming bill and a dismal economy.

“Unemployment is up because of the housing bust and the market crash and the meltdown caused by deregulation gone wild,” he says.

The question is whether voters will believe him at election time. And, if they do, will they even care? After all, admittedly it’s a bit harder to be concerned about trees, wildlife and global warming when there’s no food on the table.

A July poll by the Public Policy Institute of California backs up that premise with the finding that public opinion for increased environmental protection continues to drop as the economy worsens. According to the poll, support for California's global warming bill went from 73 percent last year to 66 percent this year.

Sure, it’s still a majority, but the fear is very real that as Californians struggle to make ends meet, those who are unemployed might not find themselves so environmentally inclined when it comes time to cast their votes.

Of course, one silver lining in all this is that carbon emissions are decreasing along with the economy, but it’s rather unlikely that fact will provide solace to the voters.

In the meantime, Schwarzenegger is banking on a large amount of federal money to help keep the state’s environmental initiatives alive. For example, the state was recently awarded $26.5 million in federal grants for clean vehicles and jobs. And, just a few days later, the governor accepted another big chunk of money to help train a clean energy workforce.

Only time will tell whether the governor’s green initiatives will pay off for both the environment and the economy. 

The environment vs. the economy
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fights for environmental protections in a dwindling economy.