Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Los Angeles as a Green "Silicon Valley"

Los Angeles has reinvented itself many times. Whether it is Hollywood or producing military hardware, the economy continues to search for a growth engine. Can green innovation be our next job and wealth creator? It will be interesting to see how UCLA can team with our buddies at Caltech and USC to do some serious things. I am still waiting for the economists at Caltech to be willing to share their fMRI machine with me. I would view this as a first step in my willingness to work with them in the future. I am still waiting for the economists at USC to give me their football tickets and a chance to talk to Pete Carroll about his life enthusiasm. I would view this as a first step in my willingness to work with them in the future.

All kidding aside, This is a very serious project. Which cities will generate competing proposals? I would guess that Boston could put a mildly serious proposal together. As someone who has "voted with his feet" , I can state that Los Angeles beats Boston. Perhaps not in snowfall or in terms of Legal SeaFood Restaurants per-capita or in terms of NFL football, but along other dimensions the choice is clear.

Why will this venture work? Returning to themes from International Trade, part of the reason is the "home market effect". See this paper. As AB32 represents a commitment device to decarbonize, the state is willing to demand "green products". Why can't these products be produced elsewhere and shipped to Green California? A green Jane Jacobs story would say that learning during this time of uncertainty is crucial and green learning is more likely to take place in hotbeds of free market environmental and energy clusters . Where will these form? In high amenity, educated areas (i.e San Diego, San Fran and LA). If AB32 offers any implicit incentive for home grown technology then this further creates incentives to center the green snowball in California. Given that LA is a much larger city than San Diego or San Fran, the home market effect would predict that the snowball will be centered in LA.

In other news, I have been invited by CNN to serve as an interviewer a week from Sunday on one of their cable shows. Maybe this is my future as the next Charlie Rose or Bill Moyers?,0,705950.story?track=rss

From the Los Angeles Times

L.A. to partner with 3 universities on clean technology

A goal of the joint effort with Caltech, UCLA and USC is to better compete for federal money for such programs and a proposed state climate change center.

By Maeve Reston

8:12 PM PDT, April 15, 2009

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a partnership Wednesday with three local universities aimed at positioning the city to compete for hundreds of thousands of federal dollars for clean technology research and a proposed state institute to study climate change.

The partnership with Caltech, UCLA and USC is part of the agenda Villaraigosa outlined in his State of the City speech Tuesday to lure and retain companies that focus on green endeavors such as solar, wind, battery and hydrogen fuel cell technologies.

Villaraigosa said the CleanTech LA alliance, which also includes the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles Business Council and Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., represented a "giant leap forward in our effort to make this city the global capital of clean technology."

"We're formalizing a partnership to leverage what we've done over the last four years in the city, what we're doing at all three universities to develop the jobs of the new economy," the mayor said, touting the clean trucks program at the Port of Los Angeles and his goal of drawing 20% of the city's electrical power from renewable energy by 2010.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said the partnership would ensure that the region "asserts its place as a hub in the emerging new clean-technology business." Most recently, the mayor's office has been working with the Community Redevelopment Agency to transform a four-mile industrial stretch -- along the Los Angeles River east of downtown -- into an incubator for clean-technology companies.

The area, which is rich in tax incentives, would be anchored at the northern end by a planned Department of Water and Power research center at the agency's Main Street site that would house laboratory projects with researchers from Caltech, USC and UCLA.

UCLA officials said they hope to test small-scale wind turbines at the site. USC officials are drawing up plans for a research center with the DWP to study how to make data centers more energy efficient.

Officials said the partnership stemmed from the city's intent to compete for a possible California climate change institute. Los Angeles was not even in contention four years ago as a site for the California stem cell research institute, and many city officials now view that as a missed opportunity.

A version of the climate change center proposal was approved by the Legislature last year but vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said the legislation was "too limiting and too premature."

State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles) reintroduced a proposal for the center in February. No decisions have been made about the process for locating the center -- but it is clear that competition with other cities will be fierce if the proposal advances.