Meet Renewable Energy’s Biggest Ambassador (and you already know him)
Here’s a subject I bet you weren’t expecting to read about on InvesterIntel — bodybuilding — but keep reading because I promise bodybuilding will help illustrate my point. Defined as “exercise that builds muscles through tension” bodybuilding is really the art and a science of muscular development. It doesn’t necessarily have to involve posing trunks and baby oil, but rather the pursuit of being the best one can be physically. Or at least optimizing yourself physically. There was a time; however, as recently as the 1970s, when bodybuilding was considered ‘bizarre.’ ‘Grotesque.’ ‘Stupid.’ ‘Narcissistic.’ ‘Pointless.’ ‘A waste of time’ and, my personal favorite, ‘gay.’ These muscle-bound ‘idiots’ would all die prematurely of a heart attack. And the second they stopped training all the muscle would turn to fat. Bodybuilding was a strange subculture that few truly understood or appreciated.
One man forever changed the world’s perception of the sport and way of life that has now become mainstream and part of, literally, countless millions of people’s lives. Arnold Schwarzenegger, known by billions as just ‘Arnold’, with the help of a handful of greats before him (Eugen Sandow, Charles Atlas, Steve Reeves, Georg Hackenschmidt, Reg Park, Bill Pearl, Larry Scott, Sergio Oliva, Joe Gold, Joe, Weider, Art Zeller and George Butler) and his compatriots of the day (including Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, Dave Draper, Robby Robinson, and Big Louie Ferrigno) helped take the sport of bodybuilding from the fringes of society, in small, dimly lit auditoriums, and brought it to mainstream America — and the rest of the world. Although the others contributed, it took the greatest bodybuilder who ever lived to achieve the worldwide revolution. Before Arnold, Gold’s Gym was just one small, stand-alone little dank gym, on Pacific Avenue in Venice. After Arnold was introduced to the world in the 1977 legendary documentary Pumping Iron, Gold’s Gym was worldwide; a major brand with hundreds of locations spanning the globe, with thousands of other commercial gyms following its lead. Now in 2013, gyms and vitamin stores are everywhere. In Toronto, there are over a dozen multi-million-dollar, state-of-the-art massive gyms within a five-minute walk from my office. But it’s not just big cities. Even the smallest towns usually have at least one gym, a vitamin shop and a health-food store.
But what did Arnold have that the other professional bodybuilders didn’t? Arnold was a great bodybuilder, true, but so were the others (Frank Zane and Sergio Oliva actually beat Arnold in competition). Suffice it to say, it was his personality. Arnold is a diplomat in the truest sense of the word. When Arnold speaks people listen. I first met Arnold when he flew me out to interview him at Warner Bros. in California on the set of one of his movies in 1996. I realized instantly that there is something uniquely different about Arnold that, quite frankly, is hard to articulate. He is leader — and one of the funniest and smartest people I have ever had the good fortune of knowing. And I don’t know of anyone (perhaps with the exception of Maria Shriver) who personally knows Arnold and doesn’t like him.
With his charismatic personality and keen sense of humor, Schwarzenegger transformed a sport and a lifestyle. He directly contributed to millions staying in shape and making health and fitness a part of their lives and, as a result, helped build a trillion-dollar industry. Now Arnold is attempting to transform renewable energy — and he is, perhaps, one of the best international ambassadors the rare earths industry could have communicating the need for REEs to support renewables and clean technologies). If there is anyone who can achieve the unthinkable, the what-was-once-thought-impossible, it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. He appeals to a significant global audience and fills a unique niche for the advancement of the industry.
Bodybuilding is not the only industry conquered by Arnold. Schwarzenegger also became one of the most successful movie stars in history, as well Governor Schwarzenegger — the duly elected two-term Governor of the State of California (responsible for the world’s then fifth-largest economy).
During his time in the California Governor’s office, Arnold made significant inroads in renewable energy — something not normally pursued by Republican governors — much to the dismay of his party and some backers. “When I was elected Governor, I said I wanted to clean the environment in California — which was the tradition in California because the state has always been environmentally friendly. But at the same time, to pump up the economy because we can do both,” explains the former governor. “We don’t have to choose one or the other. But of course environmentalists were a little bit suspicious. As a matter of fact, they would protest when I made my announcements. People called me a liar. They said I was just spewing false campaign promises. They didn’t think a conservative — a Republican — could care about the environment. But I believed in a new way of politics. Traditionally, political issues are sharply divided along partisan lines. I rejected that. I realized right away that these divisions may be good for the political parties, but they do absolutely nothing for the people. When I started pursuing a green-energy future, a green-energy agenda. It did not go over very well with my party. In fact, we had big fights. To me, it was very simple though. There aren’t conservative roads or liberal roads. We all drive on the same roads. There isn’t conservative air or liberal air. We all breathe the same air. There isn’t conservative or liberal water. We all drink the same water. I never believed you could put people’s lives into ideological corners. That’s why we have to forget the old politics of division and partisan bickering, especially on an issue as important as renewable energy.”
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Now that Schwarzenegger’s left Sacramento and renewed his Hollywood movie career as an action hero (and just launched a line of nutraceutical products), he’s still fighting for renewable energy. “The future is green energy, sustainability, renewable energy,” according to Schwarzenegger. “Presently, California is 40% more energy efficient than the rest of the United States. If the rest of the US follows what we do in California, we could literally close 75% of our coal-fired power plants. Obviously there’s been great work done, but are we there yet? No. There’s a long way to go. Renewable energy is a process that will be implemented over the next few decades.” But Schwarzenegger underscored, “It’s important that the rest of the world participates.”
Arnold’s emphasis isn’t entirely on renewable energy. He wants to bring attention to and increase the development and widespread implementation of the technologies, with the emphasis on reducing the cost of energy (while ensuring its supply). Says Schwarzenegger: “It’s equally important to produce inexpensive energy to reduce the overall cost of energy, rather than just thinking of renewable or green energy. Yes, green energy, but let’s reduce the cost of energy. Renewable energy is the future, but right now it’s a part of the total energy equation.”
When asked about those that feel fossil fuels are a better avenue to pursue because they are cheaper than new energy technologies, Arnold responds, “Look, it’s important to recognize that when 100 years ago we went off horses and buggies and converted to cars and trucks, that was also more expensive. Yes, new technologies are more expensive, but that does not mean that we should stay with the status quo and with the old system. It is not sustainable and we are only putting off the inevitable. There will be a much higher price to pay down the road. Again, the future is green energy, sustainability, renewable energy and so on. That does not mean we should turn our back on fossil fuels. We still need them! Fossil fuels will always be a part of the energy equation. They are important, but slowly, we must switch over. The US needs to work on our energy future.”
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