"It was not car companies that created this mess, it was the lack of a national energy policy that really created it," Schwarzenegger said at the opening of the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress, an annual trade show for automotive engineers in Detroit that highlights advanced automotive technology.
"Washington was not willing to show any leadership the last few years. I think it is embarrassing that we are the biggest polluter in the world, and the U.S.
only has 2-3 per cent renewable [energy]."
It was this unwillingness to bring in stricter green policies that caused California to move to its own stricter greenhouse gas controls, the governor said. Of course, that has created the current legislative quagmire: one set of rising U.S. federal corporate average fuel economy standards, and another set of even more stricter standards mandated by California, and supported by at least 12 states, as well as four Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Manitoba).
It's like two cleaner horses racing hard to a moving green finish line, with auto makers expected to gamble not only on which horse to put their (R&D) money on, but also on when the race will end.
"I believe very strongly there should only be one standard, and California has long believed that," said Schwarzenegger. "But because of the lack of leadership in Washington, going decades back, there was no leadership. "
While he did say that Detroit's carmakers have been "very stubborn" in not moving quicker to greener vehicles like hybrids and electrics, he also defended the brand that, validly or not, has become the poster child for vehicular planetary manslaughter.
"First of all, let me say, there's nothing wrong with a Hummer," said the former Hummer spokesperson, and current Hummer owner, saying that the technology is available to make zero emissions Hummers available.
He owns a specially commissioned hydrogen-powered Hummer H1, "so there's no greenhouse gas emissions," although he can't say that about the 11 other vehicles he said he owned.
He also looked closely at a Hummer H3 modified with a Volt-like extended-range plug-in electrical capacity, which promised a full electric range of 40 miles (64 km) and more than 100 mpg (2.4 L/100 km).
The former movie actor played nice to the crowd made up mostly of engineers nervous about their future job prospects by saying we all need to help Detroit, and that the industry will recover from its current woes, highlighting the point by paraphrasing his most famous movie line to wild applause.
"The car industry is saying 'I'll be back.'"