Tom Steyer Met With the Internet as He Mulls a Senate Bid

The billionaire climate activist talked gas prices, fashion, and whether he'll run for retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer's seat.

Tom Steyer has been huddling in private with advisers as he mulls whether to run for Senate in California. But on Thursday the climate-change advocate made a public appearance of sorts, taking questions from users of the online forum Reddit.

A few highlights:

Steyer defended his heavy spending in several 2014 elections, when he shelled out $74 million with very mixed results to help candidates committed to climate action. "We worked in 7 statewide races. We won 3. Lost 4. Climate and energy were top issues in every race," Steyer said in an "Ask Me Anything" interview with Reddit users.

"That's new. Turnout was high in our target populations. But there was a poor Democratic performance nationwide in 2014, and in some states it washed over us. That won't be true in the future, and climate change becomes more important and more urgent every day," added the billionaire climate advocate and former hedge-fund manager from California.

Elsewhere Steyer offered hints about how he'd talk about gasoline prices on the stump while advocating for green energy at the same time. He said he welcomed lower gasoline prices, writing that it's "great" when Americans have more money in their pockets. Then he said something vague: "It's particularly good if prices go down because people figure out how to use less gas. Even greater."

That drew a scolding from a Reddit user, who challenged Steyer by noting that when prices go down for a product, demand rises, adding, "Have you ever taken a microeconomics class?" Steyer shot back: "Thanks for the basic economics. My point was that using less gasoline — reducing demand — causes prices to fall. As you know, demand for gasoline is normally inelastic, but as we move to alternative fuels and more efficient cars and trucks, we can reduce our demand."

Turning to fashion, Steyer poked some fun at himself when asked about the hat he's wearing in this photo. Steyer confessed: "Pitiful attempt by middle-aged man to look cool."

He still hasn't decided whether to run for retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer's seat, but said it won't be much longer until a decision arrives. "Don't know yet," he wrote in response to a question about a bid. "Trying to figure out how to have most positive impact. Already working full-time on the issues. Question is, can I have more positive influence by running? I'm trying hard to figure that out, and will do it pretty soon."