The forum was sponsored by Oakland-based GreenBiz Group, a company that seeks to help professionals integrate sustainable business practices into their routines.
Joel Makower, GreenBiz Group chairman and executive editor, opened the discussion by praising Newsom’s green efforts as San Francisco’s mayor.
While in the mayor’s office, Newsom introduced citywide composting bins and converted all city vehicles to run on biodiesel fuels, Makower said.
“We also have the nation’s highest green building standards and the highest recycling rate,” Newsom said. “And 70 percent of our taxis are running on alternative energy now.
“If we can do it here, then we can certainly do it in the (Central) Valley and some other parts of the state,” he added.
With education funding being slashed, Newsom considers the focus on green practices essential.
“If we are cutting higher education, then what is going to lead our economy is green business,” he said.
Newsom lamented that some counties in California are facing unemployment rates of higher than 20 percent, but was hopeful that refocusing state efforts toward sustainable development would reverse the trend.
“We have got to dramatically address this girth of unemployment,” he said. “If we put $1 billion toward coal we get 890 jobs. However, if we put $1 billion toward solar we get 1,900 jobs.”
Specifically, Newsom said that he intends to kick-off his term as lieutenant governor by harnessing wave energy, utilizing electric vehicles and by retrofitting the state’s existing buildings.
“I’m going to start by putting a spine of electric charging stations up and down the state,” Newsom said.
The best way to tackle such a large project, he said, was to begin with cities, which he called “pockets of innovation.
“States are labs of democracy,” Newsom said. “But cities are labs of innovation.”
When asked how the state would practically begin the long journey toward environmental sustainability, Newsom indicated that there was great promise for international connections with new leadership in San Francisco.
He said that Mayor Ed Lee, as the city’s first Chinese-American mayor, has the potential to establish connections overseas for the sake of green innovation.
“I want to open up a couple offices in China,” Newsom said. “Asia is our godsend of opportunity.”
Kristen Peters, Bay City News