Assembly member Jacqui Irwin had a sit down conversation with environmentalist and NextGen Climate president Tom Steyer in Ventura County Tuesday, probing his positions and asking questions based on criticism of his agenda. There needed to be follow-up questions to Steyer’s answers.

For instance, Irwin asked about poorer communities, especially in central California, where there is high unemployment. She wondered how individuals there would be affected by the proposals to cut fossil fuels. Steyer argued that the move toward renewable energy would create jobs for individuals in that area of the state. Steyer said that businesses and jobs are being created in the renewable energy field at a record pace. He claimed that there are 500,000 clean tech jobs, a 17% increase this year.

But the unasked follow up question is what is the immediate impact on the people of the rising cost of fuel through cap-and-trade (Proposition 32) mandates both for gas at the pump and the costs of goods that are being transported.

Steyer’s larger answer to the cost question is that cost curves will cross—the cost of renewable energy will continue to come down as it is used more, the cost of fossil fuels will go up. Eventually, he argues, renewable energy will be more cost effective. Innovation will drive this result and he believes innovation is California’s strength.

How soon this crossing of the curves event may occur was not explored.

Assembly member Irwin asked if there should be an “off ramp” for SB 350 if it doesn’t work as planned. Sen. Kevin de Leon’s measure would cut fossil fuels by 50% by 2030 while increasing renewable energy 50%.

Steyer argued that California was already 80% toward the goal but that if an off ramp is needed it is provided by democracy, itself. He said the legislature and governor could abort the law if there are problems along the way.

Before California puts itself in such a situation, the legislature should take some time to consider potential consequences before rushing the proposal through.

Irwin asked about California consumers paying more for gasoline than the rest of the country.

Steyer answered that he doesn’t understand why Californians pay more. He said the oil companies make a lot more money when gas prices spike and he said the situation should be examined.

No follow up question challenging Steyer on the issue of California’s excessive regulations and taxes on gasoline as compared to other states that some economists argue help raise the price of gas.

Some other thoughts expressed by Steyer during the conversation:

Steyer said the climate change fix was a marathon and would occur over time while preserving prosperity. He believed California would meet the goals of SB 350 because California businesses will produce innovative ideas.

He said energy savings will come with software improvements offering as an example that energy on the grid could be saved by turning down refrigerators a couple of degrees from a central point when necessary and people “will never notice.” Plenty of Big Brother issues to delve into here but nothing was raised.

Asked by an audience member how to elect more pro environmental candidates, Steyer responded that the candidate must argue against the “knee jerk phrase–job killing.” You can’t let that go unchallenged, he said. From a job perspective you have to argue the development of renewable energy is good for the economy, he added.

Steyer also explained why he was focused on politics. He said he started advocating for climate change reform with the naïve notion that after a Socratic debate compromise solutions would present themselves and get done. He said he discovered it is not the technology or the policy but politics that drives the discussion.

He gave himself a more than passing grade on the success of his political endeavors saying that polls show people are moving toward his position on climate change and that two-thirds of those polled think that government should do something about climate change.

His goal is to have climate change as one of the top three issues for the voters. He says Democrats are already there, listing only jobs and health above climate change—probably something the teachers unions will be disappointed to hear. Republican voters do not rank the issue in the top of their agenda, Steyer said.

He wants Republicans to agree there is a problem, agree to address it and then argue over solutions.

Steyer insisted “we’re right” and the changes he promotes are coming. You could almost hear an echo of the refrain Gavin Newsom made famous on another California political issue: “It’s going to happen whether you like it or not.”