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Schwarzenegger: Full steam ahead on green tech

At solar power conference, California governor says that even with the economic downturn, the U.S. should stick to environmental policies that promote clean tech.

SAN DIEGO--Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered a surprise speech at the Solar Power International conference here Monday night, saying that a sustained commitment to clean technologies can aid the country's economic recovery.

After touring the conference floor, Schwarzenegger spoke to solar industry professionals at what organizers are calling a "historic" solar power conference, which has shot in attendance from 6,000 people last year to an expected 20,000 this year.

Arnold Schwarzenegger at solar conference
Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking at the Solar Power International Conference. Martin LaMonica/CNET Networks

The governor touted his state's environmental policies, which in many cases, have become models for other states and even for national policy, such as the low-carbon fuel standard and caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

But he warned that the economic downturn may lead some policymakers to seek to scale back environmental measures. Instead, he said that states and countries should redouble their commitments to green technologies because these new industries create jobs.

"We must not give in to those that say that environmental goals should take a back seat until our economy comes back," Schwarzenegger said. "It's backwards thinking and just plain wrong."

He said that in many cases, "what's clean for the environment can be green (as in money) for the economy."

Schwarzenegger is a frequent promoter of the "green economy" and spoke at the Solar Power conference two years ago. Last week, he dedicated a 2-megawatt solar installation over a parking lot at the Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters of Applied Materials, in conjunction with the announcement of an anti-sprawl policy.

Despite economic and financial problems, the solar industry is charged up from recently passed federal renewable tax credits, which were extended for eight years.

"I'm seeing some great action. More action than some of the action movies this year," Schwarzenegger joked.

"I can envision going on a helicopter and seeing no more warehouses without solar panels," he said, drawing applause from conference attendees. Then the governor and former actor promised "I'll be back," next time driving a solar-powered Hummer.