California’s clean energy is no accident

By F. Noel Perry | Published on the Capitol Weekly

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As negotiators work to nail down a global climate agreement in Paris, they can take inspiration from their hosts—and not just because of the French people’s resilience in the face of terrorist attacks. When it comes to climate change, France leads by example. It is the least carbon-intensive major economy in the world. No developed nation emits less carbon per dollar of goods and services produced.

But what might surprise many, around the world and here at home, is that the world’s second-least-carbon-intensive economy is here in the United States. Worldwide, when it comes to carbon intensity—to producing more while polluting less—California is second only to France.

That’s what we at Next 10 discovered when we surveyed the world’s top 50 greenhouse gas-emitting nations plus California in this year’s international edition of our annual Green Innovation Index. From 1990 to 2012, our state cut greenhouse gas emissions per capita by 25 percent while increasing per capita GDP by 37 percent. And as nations are charting paths to a cleaner, more robust economic future, they can learn a lot from one another—and from California.

California’s clean energy economy didn’t happen by accident. A suite of policies set the stage for our success, including forward-looking energy efficiency and gas mileage and emissions standards, and the pioneering Global Warming Solutions law. But by themselves, leadership and policy would not have been enough.

California’s innovators — from start-ups to corporate giants to research universities and national laboratories — stepped up to meet the challenge, creating game-changing clean-energy technologies big and small. That’s one reason California attracted fully half of the world’s venture capital investment in clean technology, to the tune of $5.7 billion, last year. But even adding world-class investment and innovation to policy and leadership can only get you so far.

What put us over the top is the fact that the people of California understand that tackling climate change is a necessity, and an opportunity to build a better state. They want a cleaner, more sustainable, and more prosperous future. They see the whole world moving toward cleaner energy, and they want California to benefit from taking a leadership role. So efforts to push back our state’s innovative climate and energy policies have failed at the ballot box. And Californians lead the world in embracing clean-energy technologies such as electric vehicles and renewable energy.

And we are not resting on our laurels. In April, Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order setting a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in California to 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030. That’s in line with what the European Union is talking about at Paris. It’s a very ambitious goal, but a doable one if you are committed—especially in California.

New paradigms are California’s thing. Innovative approaches and disruptive technologies are part of our history, from entertainment to computers to telephones—and now, to energy. And so, for example, it’s no surprise that Golden State innovators—from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to the University of California—are part of Bill Gates’ newly announced Breakthrough Energy Fund coalition, whose goal is to drive clean energy research and development.

The rest of the world is catching up. Last year was the first since measurements began that saw the global economy expand while greenhouse gas emissions stayed the same. That is a sign of hope for the world.

As delegates from around the Earth negotiate in Paris, we hope they remember California’s record of combining economic growth with environmental stewardship, and recognize that what has happened here can happen globally. Leadership, innovation, investment, and people power can move forward a strong agreement that will help lessen the impacts of climate change today and for future generations, and create an enormous opportunity in its place.

 

Where is employment growing the most? The least?

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If you had to guess, which states do you think are seeing the most growth in employment? How about the least?

Nevada has seen the most growth with an increase of 95% compared to 1990 levels. Utah comes in second place, with an increase of 84% compared to 1990 levels. The average for the United States as a whole is 26%.

At the other end, Connecticut has seen the least growth, yet it is still an increase of 2%. Rhode Island is second-to-lowest with an increase of 4%.

Find out where your state comes in here.

Highest Growth in Total Employment:

  1. Nevada
  2. Utah
  3. North Dakota
  4. Arizona
  5. Texas

Least Growth in Total Employment:

  1. Connecticut
  2. Rhode Island
  3. Michigan
  4. New Jersey
  5. Ohio

Do you know which states have the highest housing costs?

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The states with the highest housing costs may surprise you. Hawaii barely takes first place with median monthly housing costs of $1,490 per household in 2014. New Jersey is a very close second at $1,480.

At the other end of the spectrum, West Virginia has the lowest median monthly housing costs with $595 per household.

Find out where your state comes in at Compare50.org.

Highest Median Monthly Housing Costs:

  1. Hawaii
  2. New Jersey
  3. Maryland
  4. California
  5. Connecticut

Lowest Median Monthly Housing Costs:

  1. West Virginia
  2. Arkansas
  3. Mississippi
  4. Kentucky
  5. South Dakota

Which state leads in broadband Internet access?

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Do you know which states lead the nation in the percentage of households with Internet access over 200 KB per second?

New Hampshire is in first place with 84% of households having broadband Internet access in 2013. New Jersey is a close second with 83% of households.

Mississippi is at the bottom, with only 51% of households.

Find out where your state comes in at Compare50.org.

Most Broadband Internet Access:

  1. New Hampshire
  2. New Jersey
  3. Massachusetts
  4. Hawaii
  5. Delaware

Least Broadband Internet Access:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Arkansas
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Alabama
  5. Tennessee

A Case for Investment in Innovation

By Daniel Kammen | Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy | Energy and Resources Group | Goldman School of Public Policy | Department of Nuclear Engineering | Co-Director, Berkeley Institute of the Environment | Founding Director, Renewable and Appropriate Energy

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Nobel Laureate Robert Solow was right on the money when he concluded that over 90% of new economic activity derives from investments (human, financial, educational, and infrastructure) in innovation. With that in mind, how do we innovate ourselves out of the problems of under-education (e.g. in STEM qualified students), climate change, environmental and social injustice, and economic inequality?

While there is certainly no single answer, both investing in innovation tied to the local economy, and tracking that output is a key start. My students and I have used a tracked this data for over a decade and a half.

The Compare50 project provides a lens into this information at the state level. While most research and development spending takes place at the federal level, states also invest, and Compare50 compiles data and state-by-state rankings on this investment.

While not all states have comparable assets to invest, a local level focus provides great motivation to invest in areas that generate the most local jobs. In most cases, this means an investment in energy efficiency or clean energy over fossil fuels.

Wind in the Midwest, biomass in the Southeast, biomass in the North and West, and energy efficiency and solar… everywhere. What is so liberating about the data comparison at the state level is that is puts an objective standard on the table in the race for economic productivity and energy efficiency.

A great case of the truth shall set one (or a state) free…

Do you know which states have the most and least credit card debt per capita?

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The top 5 and bottom 5 states in terms of average credit card debt per person might surprise you. Alaska comes in at number one for 2014 with $3.83k, followed by New Jersey with an average of $3.51k per person.

At the other end of the spectrum, Mississippians have the least credit card debt per person on average with $1.65k in 2014.

Check out the full rankings on Compare 50.

Most Credit Card Debt:

  1. Alaska
  2. New Jersey
  3. Connecticut
  4. Hawaii
  5. Virginia

Least Credit Card Debt:

  1. Mississippi
  2. West Virginia
  3. Arkansas
  4. Alabama
  5. Kentucky

 

California vs. Texas Economies — Are Conservatives Right To Bash California’s Environmental Policies?

By Ethan Elkind | UC Berkeley / UCLA Schools of Law | legal-planet.org

Conservatives love to paint California as an anti-business state, while pointing to Texas as a kind of nirvana for small government, business-friendly policies.  With some recent slowing in the Texas economy due to a plunge in the global price of oil, that argument has lessened a bit in intensity, especially as California’s economy has started humming again (emerging as the top job creator of all states recently).

But Compare50.org, the new Next 10 database of economic and other indicators across all 50 states may reveal some truth to the conservative argument.  In comparing the two states on the value of goods exported internationally, the results diverge pretty dramatically, starting in the mid-1990s.  In fact, they’re almost a mirror image of each other, with Texas goods increasing and then leveling off around 2010, and California decreasing and then leveling off on the same timeline.

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I’d have to delve into the source of the numbers for a clearer picture, but it’s likely the result of a loss of manufacturing in California, with a corresponding increase in manufacturing in Texas (plus crude oil and coal exports).  If that’s the case, then conservatives may indeed be correct, at least when it comes to manufacturing.

But two questions arise from these findings: first, what are the causes of the loss of manufacturing from California and increase in Texas?  Could it be more stringent environmental policies?  That certainly could be the case, as high-polluting industries like cement manufacturers face strict air pollution requirements in California that essentially forestall new operations from starting here. 

But it could also be other factors, such as the high cost of land in California due to high demand, which makes manufacturing more expensive here, both in terms of land rent and higher salary costs.  In general, it may be more economically beneficial to site manufacturing facilities in a place like Texas.  Overall, this dynamic could be an economic win for Americans by allowing them to pay less for goods, although it is potentially a loss for good-paying, middle class manufacturing jobs in California.

And the second question: is California making up for any lost manufacturing jobs in other sectors?  The database reveals that that is likely the case, particularly in clean tech and other innovation economy areas.  For example, clean tech venture capital in California really took off around 2005, although it has plunged in the last two years, while it has been flat in Texas.  The state’s environmental policies, particularly on renewable energy and energy storage, likely have a big impact on this growth.  Meanwhile, patents granted have also increased steadily in the state, particularly over the last five years, while Texas has also been relatively flat.  And overall job growth has been solid in California since the Great Recession, although at less a rate than Texas.

So yes, maybe California has lost out to Texas in one sector of the economy.  And state leaders should certainly address the challenge of keeping and providing good middle-class jobs that may have been lost since the 1990s.  But clearly the economy on the whole in California is doing well, with clean technology an important part of that growth.  The state should keep the forward momentum on environmental policies, while still providing opportunities for in-state manufacturing going forward.