Monday, January 28, 2008

The Second Best Way to Predict the Future

The post on Joel Serface’s panel at this weekend’s sustainable business summit reminded me of a few things I learned from another Serface lecture at Green City Fest hosted by the City of Austin last semester. The self-proclaimed “recovering venture capitalist” covered everything from carbon cap-and-trade and carbon pricing to CAFÉ Standards, the Clean Air Act, and the re-birth of the auto industry. What stood out most, though, was his comparison of California and Texas in regard to energy and investment. He spoke of the “Texas Imperative” – the call for Texas, as an energy leader for the past 100 years, to step it up because other states and regions are poised to de-throne us from our coveted spot. He went step by step, starting with the ideologies the two states uphold: California embraces the entrepreneur, while Texas embraces the “big guy.” He went on, saying California has three times the economic energy efficiency as Texas and that California has already invested a billion dollars into energy research. I just read of California’s Treasurer Bill Lockyer pushing for even more investment into cleantech.

Having said all that, Serface was still optimistic, and explained what Texas has in its favor. Texas certainly has its past energy experience. He also pointed to cities such as Austin that want to become a knowledge center, a center for emerging technologies, particularly clean energy. Austin has already enacted policies in order to foster growth in the clean tech industry, such as the City of Austin’s emerging technologies program and economic development policy and matrix. Partnerships and interconnectedness between entities is another thing Austin in particular has going for it. Serface sited the Beta Testing program between the City owned Austin Energy and the Austin Technology Incubator, which cuts down the capital and time cycle needed to test new technologies.

If Texas wants to remain the energy king, the state as a whole is going to have to take a pointer or two from men like Serface and from its own capital. True, the best way to predict the future is to invent it (Kay), but the second best…is to finance it (Kleiner).

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