Lieutenant Governor of California on the State of Sustainability in California

In the State of Green Business Forum, California’s newly elected Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom came to discuss how California is pursuing clean tech, energy efficiency, and renewables.

California’s “new” governor, Jerry Brown, led the state in investing in renewable energy during his first tenure as Governor in the 1970’s, and with he and Newsom now leading the charge in our nation’s biggest and most prosperous state, California has some audacious goals. California has always been a leader in clean tech, environmental standards, and creating the jobs and infrastructure of the future.

Newsom was particularly proud of Californians for voting down AB32 in the polls by almost 2/3 last year, despite the overwhelming amount of money invested by Texas oil companies, and pointed at that as the first sign of where the state is.

Newsom’s environmental record as former Mayor of San Francisco is pretty strong in terms of policies to create incentives for companies to get involved in the local sustainable economy. The city now diverts about 80% of its waste from the landfill stream. The city has the largest municipal-owned solar installation, 5 MW, which was one of Newsom’s pet projects.

Joel Makower, Executive Editor of, asked Newsom that his goals for the state might seem audacious, given that California is not San Francisco, a city Newsom himself often likes to joke is “49 square miles surrounded by reality”. Newsom said he “flat out” didn’t buy it. As he said, people in Fresno are not that different than people in San Francisco. They still want to be safe when they walk out their front door to get the newspaper. They still want good schools for their children. They probably want to try an electric car, and they likely worry about range anxiety.

The key, Newsom said, is to connect with people where they are. Two topics that are too hot to touch politically are global warming and health care. So how do we talk about climate change? According to Newsom, you talk about clean air and clean tech jobs. Paraphrasing Newsom’s idea of how to talk to people about clean energy? “I don’t care about how much I pay per unit of energy on my utility bill, I just want to pay less for my bill overall.”

When asked about where the state is heading, Newsom said, “The budget is an excuse. We need to get through the budgetary crisis, but we need to also be making investments in our economic future.”

Newsom’s goals for the state:

1. Wave energy. 4 miles off the coast of California, we can produce renewable energy from wave energy, and according to Newsom, we’re slightly behind Washington and very behind Oregon in getting the technology and infrastructure in place. He wants to invest and develop this technology.

2. Install a spine of electric vehicle charging stations. Paid for by car companies who are rolling out electric cars, these would be placed in all the rest areas off each highway in the state.

3. Getting the PACE program back up and running. Energy efficiency is our biggest opportunity, according to Newsom, and getting the PACE program back will generate a lot of investment in getting our existing building stock weatherized and more efficient.

But as nice as it is to have a Lieutenant Governor and Governor on board with the green economy, Newsom says the really exciting stuff is going on in cities. “States are a laboratory for democracy. Cities are a laboratory for innovation.” What cities can do will largely determine our future economy, because as one city goes and shows evidence of something working, others will follow, and follow much more quickly than we can at the state or federal level.

Stay tuned for more news from the State of Green Business Forum. As always, you can follow TriplePundit on twitter for live feeds from the event.


Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill) and Principal of

Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.

3 responses

  1. Reinventing the economies of California and British Columbia into deep green havens for social innovation is “the way”. Both jurisdictions have taken steps and have formidable challenges keeping up withe racehorses in the EU. Lining up the force of the market with green and local and socially sound must happen through taxes and edgy policy tools. We need the next Bill Gates or Andrea Jung’s of this world to harness their creative entrepreneurial “force” to heal broken places while offering ethical profits. Donna Morton, CEO First Power

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