It was something I didn’t expect but, with a bit of thought, I guess you could have predicted it: Arnold Schwarzenegger, once the muscle-man movie star, now the 38th Governor of the US state of California, opening the second press preview day of the 2007 Greater Los Angeles Auto Show. But it was still a shock to see The Barbarian in a business suit.

In fact, it was a good job I hadn’t seen it coming; I’d have been waiting with my shoulders clenched, for the cringe-worthy movie reference or the butchered catchphrase. Neither came.

Arnie stood in front of a line of environmental cars - the automotive stars of the show – and calmly, deliberately, spelled out California’s ambitions to continue leading the way on curtailing vehicle emissions. Behind him were the Dodge Durango Hemi Hybrid, the Honda FCX Clarity, the Chevrolet Volt, and the VW Jetta TDI. In front of him was... well, probably a speech that someone else had written. But his sentiments were considered, and the force behind his message considerable.

California is already the toughest place in the world to get a new car through emissions regulations. It has, apparently, been engaged in legal wranglings with the US Federal Government in order that it be allowed to crack down even harder. It wants to cut CO2 from car tailpipes by a further 25 per cent in 2009, and from SUVs by 18 per cent.

In order to do that, the state must be granted a waiver from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s national emissions rules. But the show Arnie put on today proves that it knows it’s not going to make progress without the support of the country’s three major car-makers.

Schwarzenegger's support for the LA show, and the US car industry in general, should be commended. Too many law makers look to set legislation without involving those who are chiefly affected by it; it seems America’s last action hero isn’t one of them.

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