Big name California politicians lent their clout to a green economy conference January 14. “We have been playing at the margins” to date, observed Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco, during a meeting sponsored by the California Public Utilities Commission, private and public utilities, and environmental and social justice groups. However, he said that now “there is a great opportunity in front of us.” Emerging green energy companies can not only find markets in California as the state moves to renewable power and lower carbon emissions, but can leverage their businesses to export new technologies around the globe, according to CPUC member Timothy Simon, one of the organizers of the event. California Attorney General Jerry Brown pointed out that federal delay on meaningful implementation to reduce global warming gases drives up the cost of mitigation, noting that $30 billion in federal government investments are needed each year to make the green energy economy hum. “We must avoid creating an economic bubble that benefits a few,” said former State Treasurer Phil Angelides, current chair of the Apollo Alliance. The greening of the state must reach deep into the California economy, and involve more than “eco-chic” installation of solar panels on second homes of the wealthy. Taking steps to place California ahead of other states on the green economic front by adopting policies that promote investments in renewables, energy efficiency, and clean tech businesses is needed not only for socioeconomic reasons but also to bolster global competitiveness. “A new business model would provide independence and competitiveness globally,” said CPUC member John Bohn. A key step to making a green market a reality is putting a price on carbon and other greenhouse gases. Some speakers advocated a national carbon cap-and-trade program while others a carbon tax. Newsom announced that San Francisco was launching a carbon tax on employers and simultaneously eliminating the payroll tax to make sure it would be revenue neutral. Editors’ note: For a more detailed version of the clean economy story, please see our sister publication E=MC2 – Energy Meets Climate Challenge. You can find it at www.energymeetsclimate.com.