07/18/2013 11:57 am ET Updated Sep 17, 2013

Newsom Explains Carbon Tax for Dummies

In this exclusive Fresh Dialogues interview, Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor of California and new father, explains why the U.S. needs a national carbon tax. Newsom was attending the New York Times Global Forum in San Francisco, June 20, and shared his views on climate change, oil companies and his dream of being Governor of California one day.

Newsom, whose wife Jennifer Siebel, just gave birth to their third child on July 3rd, frames the argument in a way that even a five-year old can understand.

"You wanna move the mouse, you gotta move the cheese," says Newsom, who describes other measures to combat climate change, such as composting, plastic bag bans, even green building, as "playing a bit in the margins."

Newsom argues that putting a price on carbon is the real macro solution to climate change. Nevertheless, he praises the entrepreneurial spirit of many city mayors who have proved that you can grow your economy and reduce your Greenhouse Gas emissions. Local case in point: San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed's Green Vision

Here are some highlights of our conversation

On Oil Companies, Interesting Bed Fellows

Newsom: "Some of the big oil companies are talking about a carbon tax as they're more and more concerned about cap and trade... \especially in California with AB 32. Now they're saying, 'now wait... a carbon tax may make sense.' Interesting bedfellows now. I think there's a different dialogue that could potentially be held. I'm not suggesting for a moment that Chevron is saying 'time for a carbon tax' but in the private conversations that I've had with a lot of these big energy producers, you don't have that negative reaction that we had four or five years ago..."

Fresh Dialogues: "What's in it for the oil companies?"

Newsom: "I don't want to put words in their mouth. The bottom line is: what most of these big producers want is consistency across jurisdictions."

On Leaning In to Green Growth

"I want to see a standard that could bring this country back to international prominence in terms of leaning into a low carbon green growth strategy, so that we can dramatically change the way we produce and consume energy and lead the world as a pace setter in terms of efforts to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions and radically reorient our economy in a 21st Century manner." -Gavin Newsom

On Being Governor of California

"No one knows what the future holds politically speaking. I have got an entrepreneurial energy. I like doing, not just being. I've long talked about the position as governor as a platform to really engage in bottom up thinking and go local in terms of economic development strategies, workforce development strategies and find substantive solutions to deal with the issue of climate change... Being there in Sacramento to begin to scale those best practices is something I've long wanted to do." -Gavin Newsom

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This exclusive Fresh Dialogues interview was recorded at the New York Times Global Forum in San Francisco, June 20, 2013. The forum organizers provided the painful background music at the Metreon, which sadly couldn't be removed from the audio track.