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The Haysbert Principle

Vaulted into stardom by his role as President David Palmer on "24," Dennis Haysbert brings his trademark integrity to new role.

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If Dennis Haysbert, the actor, is able to lend dignity and integrity to a screen role as a political leader, Dennis Haysbert, the American voter, has strong views on what politicians need to do to ensure our future.
When asked what he thinks President Palmer, Haysbert's "24" character, would do about the environment, Haysbert doesn't skip a beat before responding. "David Palmer would bring all those heads of state into his office and all those corporate heads, and say, 'Look, what do you want? What is it that you want and that we can give you to make you change the infrastructure of your companies so that we don't spew out a quarter of the world's Co2 into the air, that we don't put a disproportionate amount of bullshit crap in our skies?' Because the thing is, I hear people say that it's killing the planet. It's not going to kill the planet, the planet will adjust. It's the planet that will kill us."
As a few names of potential candidates for the 2008 presidential election get bandied about, the subject of the conversation segues, slightly, into Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. The film, Haysbert says, made a difference to him, and woke him up enough to make him "…angry. Angry and tired. I'm angry at greed, I'm tired of putting ungodly amounts of Co2, metric tons of Co2, in the air. I'm getting tired of looking at glaciers near Kilimanjaro become pools of water. Tired of what I see, tired of what I smell."
That Haysbert has become passionate on the subject of the environment and global warming becomes obvious, and for nearly an hour he talks in an informed, intelligent manner about everything from the oil used in creating plastic grocery bags to the deliberate abandoning of electric-car and solar-power technology for traditional fossil fuels.
It's not that Haysbert doesn't appreciate the finer things in life himself, he says, but rather that he's willing to make compromises. Haysbert, a car buff, owns both a Range Rover and a Bentley ("which I'm looking at converting to diesel or bio-diesel") and has recently placed an order for an electric car that he plans to drive to and from his home in Malibu and the set of "The Unit."
Furthermore, says Haysbert, he's making his home "green," and hopes to have most of the modifications done by the end of the year. "I'm putting in solar panels, solar roof panels, and I'm using different kinds of light bulbs that reduce Co2 emissions. I'm putting in a saline pool for my exercise and I'm putting in two 8,000-gallon rain catchers with tanks under the ground. Rainwater collection makes sense," Haysbert says, "and you can collect an awful lot of water depending upon the surface of your rain catcher and filtration systems. Just three inches of water will give [me] 10,000 gallons [of water] based on my roof size."
If Haysbert waxes enthusiastic about the changes taking place in his home, it's the change that will be taking place in his driveway that puts a sparkle in his eye. Haysbert confesses he has always had a thing for cars, especially fast cars. "It was in my childhood that I started to love cars, all kinds of cars, especially Corvettes. [They] were sleek, powerful and American-made [at a time] when that still meant something."
Some things, it seems, don't change over time. Haysbert still craves fast, and still prefers American-designed automobiles. The trick, it seems, is finding those two features in a package that offers an environmental edge to it. Surprisingly, he's found it, he says, in his new electric car.
That new car, a Tesla, is a sleek, sexy roadster convertible that is slightly Porsche-like in design and travels 250 miles (a 135-mpg equivalent) per three-hour electric charge. Haysbert was one of the first 100 buyers to place an order for the Tesla, which has an estimated delivery date of spring 2007 and a price tag of $100,000.
"It has no emissions," enthuses Haysbert. "None. And it tops out at 130 miles per hour, and that's with a governor on it."
When asked whether he plans on testing that speed out, Haysbert grins for a moment before his inbred discipline kicks back in.
"No. The thing is that you know you can. Just knowing you can is sufficient."
Betsy Model is a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado.
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