It was images from the Gulf of Mexico that made Schwarzenegger change his mind and yank his proposal for more oil drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara, a project known as Tranquillion Ridge.
"I see it on TV, the birds drench in oil, the fisherman out of work, the massive oil slick destroying our precious eco-system; that will not happen here in California," Schwarzenegger said. "This is why I am withdrawing my support for the T-Ridge Project."
It is a stunning reversal; for two years, the normally earth-friendly governor has been pushing the T-ridge project to help solve the budget deficit of more than $100 million this year and nearly $2 billion over 14 years.
The move surprised environmentalists.
"I think the disaster in the Gulf has been a wakeup call about the dangers of offshore oil drilling and we need to quickly transition to clean energy sources," Sierra Club of California Director Bill Magavern said.
But Republicans are shaking their heads; they say the platforms in California are very different from the ones in the Gulf -- less prone to such environmental disasters.
"The governor is flat wrong; he is reacting emotionally to this terrible incident and he's not thinking things through objectively," Assm. Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, said.
Without the governor's backing, drilling off the coast of California is essentially dead, but it leaves an even bigger hole in the budget.
"If I have a choice between the $100 million and what I see in the Gulf of Mexico, I'd rather figure out how to make up for that $100 million," Schwarzenegger said.