"Green chemistry" isn't just a slogan. It is a full employment concept for government regulators and private-sector lawyers that will have the effect of costing American business billions even as it produces minimal benefits for consumers. Just like "global warming" and "clean energy," "green chemistry" is a phrase containing worlds within it, almost all of them dangerous or downright deadly to market-driven innovation and productivity. We are entering the third decade of the "green chemistry" movement, and a handy guide to its history is in Katharine Sanderson's article in the Jan. 6 issue of Nature. The would-be regulators of all chemistry have not had an easy time of it these past 20 years. Anderson quotes a proponent of the movement as telling her that "a mention of green chemistry in a gathering of chemists can still provoke sighs and eye-rolling."

Among government bureaucrats eager to expand their regulatory reach, however, that mention is likely to produce clasped and rubbing hands, while manufacturing executives reach for the aspirin and their lawyers reach for the time sheets. "Green chemistry" got a toehold in California and from there will climb its way on to the backs of the rest of America.

Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a pair of bills into law in September 2008 that together are known as California's "Green Chemistry Initiative." In June of last year, California's Department of Toxic Substances Control released a draft set of regulations that according to the department "sets forth a process for the design of safer products," while creating "a systematic, science-based process to evaluate chemicals of concern in products." The regulations mandated that "manufacturers seek safer alternatives to toxic chemicals in their products, and create tough governmental responses for lack of compliance."

The proposed rules were then massaged and reworked, and when the 92-page final set of commands was issued in November, the "green community" was disappointed with the "green initiative," and demanded a rewrite with tougher requirements.

In late December, Team Arnold caved and postponed issuance of the new regs, saying in a letter to the key legislator, California Assemblyman Mike Feuer, that the department "has agreed to take additional time to be responsive to the concerns raised and revisit the proposed regulations."

Now the new governor, Jerry Brown, will superintend the rules that almost certainly will mandate testing and labeling changes on tens of thousands of products and almost certainly trigger a new generation of product recalls.

"Take the most onerous regulatory regimes you have heard of," Liz McNulty, one of my law partners, told me, "like those associated with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act or the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.

"Take whatever you think is the worst regulatory regime out there, and expand it exponentially," she continued, "and then you get a glimpse of what is coming to California."

McNulty is already a guru on California's costly Proposition 65, which spawned a million useless warning signs around the state, but now her office light is on late figuring out what California will do next to manufacturers.

With taxes already sky-high and the regulatory environment among the worst in the nation, some manufacturers will simply join the exodus of job creators to Texas and elsewhere. But the long arm of California's regulatory zealots won't let them go at the state border -- not if their products are going to circulate in the Golden State.

For a state with 12 percent unemployment, the zeal for new job-killing laws and rules seems insane, but proponents have told themselves the new dictates are "technology-forcing" and thus job creators.

California has had two decades of such "job creators," and the consequences are obvious. A dead economy is apparently also a "green economy."

Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.