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Warm, fuzzy and cynical

October 12, 2005

BEWARE OF POLITICIANS IN SWEATERS. Nothing against a smart cardigan or a cashmere V-neck, mind you, but on an elected official, such attire is usually less sensible fashion choice than cynical political statement. Especially with the prices of gasoline and heating oil near record highs.

It may be a little early in the season for sweaters, but in a ploy to show their conservationist bona fides, the governors of Florida, Minnesota and New Mexico recently let it be known that they are giving up their gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles for something that gets better mileage. This is the sort of empty symbolism that often fades quickly after a crisis passes. This time, it's OK if it stops at the border of California.

Some are bound to call on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to join the crowd in eschewing big SUVs. He routinely travels around in an entourage that includes two big, black vehicles. Witnesses identify them as Ford Expeditions, but the governor's press office would neither confirm nor deny this description.

Schwarzenegger should get a pass on his SUVs. For one thing, he obviously needs more security than most governors. For another, he has been a leader in promoting the use of alternative fuels to wean the state (and the country, in the process) from hydrocarbons.

He has promoted establishment of a "hydrogen highway" in California with a string of service stations providing fuel for hydrogen-powered vehicles. Just last month, the governor signed into law a bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), requiring the state to plan for diversification of California's transportation fuel supply among alternative fuels.

Moreover, conservation has long been serious business in California. If the national government would adopt some of California's pioneering efforts, the nation would be a lot closer to the goal of "energy independence."

Besides, the governor would look foolish trying to fit his (former) bodybuilder frame into some puny little sedan, like the ones all those clowns emerge from. His image would suffer, and so would California's. If Schwarzenegger really wants to engage in a little symbolism, he may want to consider switching to a hybrid gasoline-electric SUV. So long as he doesn't start wearing a sweater.

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