To achieve its energy aims California needs Washington, D.C. But, Tea Party Republicans in Congress have a message for California: -Coal is good. -We\u2019d rather drive Suburbans than Priuses. -Those swirly light bulbs look girly. -We are not going to live in a LEED house to support your pseudo-scientific global warming goals. It\u2019s a message most Californians don\u2019t take kindly. It\u2019s also caught state leaders off-guard just as the Golden State is finally poised to enjoy long-sought federal support on energy policy. Amid a growing national furor about budget deficits and the need to limit the role of government, many Republicans--more likely to take their cues from Rush Limbaugh than Nobel laureates--have in their crosshairs grants for big desert solar and wind projects, research funds for clean energy technology, and even small grants to help local government develop global warming programs. Tea Party Republicans have launched a full-scale attack on the very ideas that underpin California\u2019s clean energy policy. In their shotgun sights are California\u2019s policies on global warming, green economics, environmental health, and the notion that government should nurture societal improvements. The result is that California at this moment in time is politically toxic for much of the nation, even moderate Republicans. That\u2019s why when the Clinton Foundation brought former Berkeley Property Assessed Clean Energy program administrator Cisco DeVries to Texas to talk about how to establish a similar household solar rooftop financing program there he was told not to use the \u201cC\u201d word. DeVries recounts that the foundation admonished him not to mention the state of California, Berkeley, or global warming--the mantra of the Golden State\u2019s energy policy for the past five years. Despite the readily apparent vitriol, this new national political reality seems to be dawning slowly on California. State energy leaders seem convinced California\u2019s Democratic senators will preserve federal renewable energy money. They persist in talking about the scientific threat of climate change thinking those who profess to believe in creationism will someday see the cold blue CFL light. California Public Utilities Commission president Mike Peevey even blames the media (Fox News, being the leading example) for giving equal weight to climate skeptics rather than just reporting the truth about global warming. I agree with Peevey. Yet I know that Fox--biased as it may be in order to preserve its loyal market niche--goes with what brings ratings. Arguing with Tea Party Republicans about Fox News and the scientific merit of global warming in Washington is fruitless. Californians can demand hearings with scientists and talk about facts as much as they like. Meanwhile Tea Party Republicans are busy constantly firing and reloading to cut clean energy spending in the recent two- and three-week continuing resolutions that Congress passed to avert a federal government shutdown. The prospect of further cuts in a final spending bill for this year--again on the table this week unless disagreement forces yet another short-term measure or even a government shutdown--looms large. Even bigger cuts could come when Congress gets around to considering a 2012 budget. It points to the need for California to change its message on energy policy when we speak to Washington, as well as find some new messengers. The old Democratic standbys of Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Henry Waxman don\u2019t seem to be the champions the state needs to win over enough moderate Republicans in the House and Senate to make sure crucial federal energy programs aren\u2019t decimated. While not warranted in my view, clearly they\u2019ve been branded by the Tea Party as too far out to be seen with, driving a wedge between the state and even moderate Republicans. So to preserve clean energy programs--and their billions of dollars for California--requires state energy leaders to identify and communicate common ground on energy policy with moderate Republicans. This requires new messengers and a new message that speaks to people with a very different world view. For instance, when it comes to Property Assessed Clean Energy financing programs there are several problems. (In PACE programs, home and business owners borrow money lined up by municipalities for energy efficiency retrofits or solar rooftops and pay it off in their annual property taxes.) In a Republican world where taxes and assessments are evil, PACE advocates should rebrand the program to focus on how it opens new enterprise markets and financing opportunities for home and business owners to improve their properties. Note that the emphasis should be on \u201copportunity,\u201d \u201cbusiness,\u201d the \u201cmarket\u201d and \u201cownership,\u201d among the most hallowed concepts of the Tea Party, rather than \u201cclean\u201d and \u201cassessed,\u201d which connote environmentalism and the dreaded \u201cT\u201d word. (There\u2019s probably a suitable acronym some good P.R. consultant could coin.) In creating a new image for PACE, rather than having city government officials serve as spokespeople, send in the equivalent of \u201cJoe the Plumber.\u201d Have the electricians and contractors who install solar rooftops, new windows, and insulation speak on behalf of the program. Get some good testimonials from restaurant owners, landlords, and ministers on how they\u2019ve saved money and become more efficient at their businesses, buildings, and churches through the innovative new financing opportunity. Stop talking about grants for large renewable energy projects in terms of climate change and green jobs. Instead, focus on the jobs the projects will create in Midwest districts in the steel industry and the new construction jobs for the conservative desert areas of the Southwest. Take a cue from defense contractors who make sure their latest weapon projects involve jobs in at least 218 out of the 435 Congressional districts. Make sure the local newspaper and chamber of commerce in each of those districts knows about it too. In short, don\u2019t just talk about new industries, emphasize the new markets wind, solar, wave power, etc., create for old industries that make cement, steel, glass, and turbines. Talk too about the new opportunities for banks and investors. Find glass makers in upstate New York and steel makers in Indiana and get them to talk to their Republican lawmakers about why they should support renewable energy project funding. They will carry more weight than Boxer and California commissioners. Ditto for electric vehicles and wind power. Instead of state bureaucrats talking about corporate average fuel economy standards and limits on greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes, shift gears and tell how to eliminate bars to rare earth metal mining and refining in America, which provides the materials needed for electric vehicle components. Talk up opening new markets to electric vehicle car producers and electric vehicle charger manufacturers in China and India. Identify all the companies that produce all the components for electric vehicles and get the list to the Republicans representing those districts. Who knows, among them may be the next Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)--a self-made millionaire who produced a car alarm that features his own voice. He and others like him in Congress could understand the potential opportunity and could become champions of local businesses, as long as they don\u2019t have to be labeled \u201cgreen\u201d to do so. For them, that\u2019s the kiss of death. The bottom line is that California needs to shift the focus of what the Tea Party has framed as a debate on global warming, a war on coal and coal mining jobs, and the environmental nanny state to other topics. Instead of continuing to chant the climate change and green jobs mantra and rant about 350 parts per million, our state has to start talking about and showing how to eliminate the hurdles to the new free enterprise opportunities a shift to clean energy represents, no matter who benefits or what color the jobs. California needs to stop vilifying coal, which is likely to fall on its own weight. Instead, blame the lack of energy progress on a new enemy. Ask what Rush would say? No doubt he\u2019d find a villain and focus the ire of the Tea Party on all those \u201ccactus huggers\u201d blocking renewable energy projects and rare earth metal mining out in the desert. He\u2019d divert public attention--creating millions of \u201cditto heads\u201d--by castigating the cactus lovers for standing in the way of the nation\u2019s progress because they hate free enterprise. If he did, that\u2019d mark the political breakthrough California needs.