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New 'greenprint' could map way for next boom

Regional plan for Silicon Valley economy unveiled at 'State of the Valley' conference Friday

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A new leadership group is poised to steer Silicon Valley into a "green-tech revolution" that could keep the valley from being displaced by other regions around the world, speakers said at the 2009 State of the Valley conference at San Jose's Parkside Hall Friday.

Energy is the only field offering the same range of opportunities as information technology, speakers said at a conference of several hundred business and government leaders, co-sponsored by Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

The aim of a new "Greenprint Project" is to develop a new, 21st-century energy system that would displace the oil-dependent economy and create a second Industrial Revolution, they said, referring to the massive social and economic shift of the mid-1800s.

Joint Venture co-chairs, Chris DiGiorgio of Accenture, Inc. and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, unveiled the Greenprint Project, described as a blueprint-type initiative to turn global climate change into a thriving local industry.

The "greenprint" plan will seek ways to build a new infrastructure from the ground up, they said. The initiative would attract or train talent to meet needs of the new industry; retrain workers from industries that are contracting; invent new energy technologies to replace the oil-dependent economy; and build a support for improved housing, health care, education and ancillary services that will keep people coming to or staying in the Bay Area.

The conference convened leaders in education, local government, venture capital, high-tech, medicine and emerging technologies.

Speakers said a "climate prosperity" strategy will be more than hot air -- turning talk into a tangible industry.

Jonathan Pickering, Applied Materials senior vice president, announced a $300,000 donation over the next two years to fund a "director of climate prosperity" position for the Greenprint project.

"Leading any initiative takes horsepower," he said, adding he hopes many other companies would follow.

Introductory remarks from Russell Hancock, president and CEO of Joint Venture, sounded a warning that the national economic woes have begun to impact the valley, which had been relatively insulated from the worst effects. More bad economic news should be expected throughout the year as companies continue to contract, he said.

Implementing a regional infrastructure -- such as building a network of charging stations and retrofitting the 90 percent of existing homes and offices with energy-efficient technologies -- will allow the new energy products to be used seamlessly, DiGiorgio and Reed said.

The regional collaboration hopes to encompass business, government, academia, labor and community organizations.

Money -- totaling nearly $1.9 billion in 2008 -- is starting to come into the area for green technology. Venture capital investment in clean technology in Silicon Valley increased 94 percent in 2008, speakers said.

And long-established firms such as Cypress Semiconductor, Applied Materials and PG&E are investing in the growing solar and smart-metering and plug-in markets.

Reed said San Jose's "green vision" aims to show the world how energy efficiency and the new clean technologies can stimulate the economy and bring financial returns.

Within 15 years, San Jose plans to create 25,000 clean-tech jobs and reduce per capita energy use by 50 percent. The city wants to build or retrofit 50 million square feet of green buildings and ensure that 100 percent of public fleet vehicles will run on alternative fuels. All of the city's electrical power is expected to come from clean renewable resources, he said.

Keynote speaker Fareed Zakaria, international editor at Newsweek, said Silicon Valley must bolster its social and support network if it hopes to remain a global player. The seeds of how the country and the valley are now faring were sown three decades ago, when the Soviet Union collapsed and American capitalism became the only viable economic model for other nations, he said.

But "powerful and phony growth bubbles" fueled the economy and were not backed by real productivity, leading to the current economic meltdown, he said. Unless a new and aggressive model is developed, Silicon Valley could see other emerging nations usurp its global position.

Zakaria said everywhere he has gone in the world -- in China, Korea and Singapore -- he saw America slipping from having the biggest or best, from Ferris wheels and shopping malls to gambling centers. The world's most lucrative gambling center is now in China, not Las Vegas, he said.

"To stay ahead on the new global racetrack, Silicon Valley will have to get away from the prevailing belief that has swayed the country since 1979: that America has a unique place in the global economy, he said.

While funding from the federal stimulus package and other energy policies by the new administration is expected to help kick-start the new industry, Silicon Valley must be prepared to take advantage of the opportunity by improving a flagging social network, Hancock said.

Home ownership is elusive for many and has squeezed the middle class into an "hour-glass" demographic of the rich and the poor, with only a small percentage in the middle. Only 29 percent of residents can afford a median-priced home in Silicon Valley, compared with 45 percent statewide, Hancock said.

Zakaria agreed.

Silicon Valley will have to offer services and community infrastructure that will continue to attract workers to the area -- affordable housing, good education, adult-worker retraining and affordable health care. Otherwise, the best and brightest will flock to other countries that offer a better way of life, Zakaria said.

To be successful, Silicon Valley can't invent the infrastructure in a vacuum -- it will take large infusions of cash and policy support from a well-managed government to achieve dominance in the new world order, he warned.

Otherwise, "we won't have another boom," he said.

And that would be ironic, he added.

"Imagine 100 years from now. Imagine the irony that would strike (analysts). We've gone around telling people to 'open yourselves up ... to the American way of life.' America has managed to fulfill its great historical mission. It globalized the world; it just forgot to globalize itself," he said.

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Posted by rr
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 22, 2009 at 9:37 am

"Silicon Valley will have to offer services and community infrastructure that will continue to attract workers to the area -- affordable housing, good education, adult-worker retraining and affordable health care. Otherwise, the best and brightest will flock to other countries that offer a better way of life," Zakaria said.

Ummm, OK. The folks that "flock to other countries..." aren't really Americans in the true sense of the word, are they? They are simply opportunists. The same type that messed up this local economy and then fled to where ever. Some were never Americans to begin with. They came here for work, used up all types of resources, overstayed their Visas and then fled when the bottom fell out.( And I'm talking about people who came here legally, just to clarify)
When the local economy returns, and it will, we should absolutely not allow 'guest' workers , citizens of other countries to do the exact same thing. I think what Mr. Zakaria meant was all the Tech workers who flocked here and then took their $$ back to their native country.
If what he really meant was U.S. Citizens flocking to other countries for a better way of life, well I doubt that will occur. True Americans are in this through thick and thin. The ones that leave should never be allowed back, except as 'guests'.
The plan has it right. Re-train current and future workers to thrive in the new industries. Invest locally in the wealth of local talent already here and the rest of the country will follow, or flock here. Globalization has never really worked in the long term for anyone. Time to get back to basics here.

Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2009 at 10:08 am

The "green-tech revolution" is both a pipe dream and a pyramid scheme.

Those who got in early are now desperately trying to recruit others suckers so they can make some money.

Even the socialist/green countries in Scandinavia are now fully committed to Nuclear Power as the main solution to their energy needs.

So will we.

Where is Al Goricale these days, busy inventing the new Internet I suppose, while burning up vast amounts of fuel with his house,boats and planes.

Like this comment
Posted by rr
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 22, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Of course Socialist countries are going nuclear. Free enterprise is what stimulates creativity and competition. Soon, Mexico will abandon or sell their oil and will go nuclear as well. And still, Mexico will have no export except the drug trade that is wrecking our country too.
Yes, nuclear will eventually become the necessary evil that so many of us will always oppose, but other forms of alternative and "green" energy must and will be developed. And the majority of it WILL be here in the Valley.
Sorry skeptics, the quickest path to anything logical in this area always involves alot of trial and error, as well as alot of people getting amazing opportunities for improving the future. Let's not forget what we were all doing 25 years ago...
And for everybody's sake, we had better hope things improve around here, cause we'll never get the orchards back again.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Just think of the opportunities in rickshaw tugging.

Like this comment
Posted by Bryan Long
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 23, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Wow. Sharon, Walter and rr, if we could find a way to turn bitterness into electricity I think maybe you three could light up the city. Sharon, early green tech was based on idealistic people who wanted to make money while saving the world. Hardly any of them made much money at all, but God bless them for trying. The new green tech described in the article is based on opportunistic investors who see how new technologies can help cash conscious businesses reduce expenses, and also on incentives provided by a society where the majority now recognize the dangers of energy dependence, resource shortages, and climate change. The only people obsessed with Al Gore are you and the other bitter people who are trying to self-justify why they voted for George Bush. Al Gore lost an election and then helped the world pay attention to majority scientific consensus that climate change is real and dangerous. Bush won the election, told us we should just go shopping more, and led us into economic devastation. I haven't heard from Gore lately, and I don't want to hear from Bush ever again. But today, it isn't about Bush or Gore; its about us and Obama and the fumbling members of Congress. rr, you are absolutely right that clean energy technologies are essential and nuclear is an essential part of a clean energy tripod along with wind and solar (probably thermal solar). But why you think legal guest workers are bad for America is beyond me. Highly educated guest workers benefit America: in general whatever earnings they "take home" is far outweighed by the value creation they leave behind. If you went to Pittsburg, contributed to the success of a new job-creating company there, and then moved back to Palo Alto with some money and experience, would that be bad for Pittsburg? I don't think so. How can you justify the claim that foreign workers messed up out local economy? In case you haven't noticed, the whole world's economy is messed up right now. And Walter, what the heck is the rickshaw comment supposed to say to us about you?

Like this comment
Posted by Lisa
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 23, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Actually, the solution to the global warming/geopolitical instability problem, at least when it comes to oil is a multiphased approach:

First, conservation - better insulation in buildings, better lighting, more efficient automobiles, building in a truly desirable mass transit system are the least expensive and fastest way to cut CO2 emissions.

Second - It's essential that we lead the world in development of renewables, solar, wind, hydro, tidal and geothermal. Envision clothing and fabric that has photovoltaic properties. Our goal should be to be able to export these technologies to BRIC countries and of course depriving some of our adversaries of the oil weapon is far more effective than weaponry.

Thirdly - more Americans die annually from coal-based CO2 emissions (lung cancer) and acid rain is a huge problem in lakes in the eastern US. Nuclear plants, if constructed using certified modular construction where the plant is qualified and then replicated using the same design is essential for our base load. The waste problem is more political than technical. France and Japan each derive more than 80% of their electricity from nuclear. That being said, we should still push renewables over nuclear, but there should be a place for it in our energy mix.

And finally, the idea of a smart power grid to move all of this new-found power around is essential. Recently, in Nebraska and Colorado, I saw huge wind farms. The US Midwest is the Saudi Arabia of wind.

My 2 cents - a Sierra club member, formerly anti-nuclear activist, and dedicated mountain climber.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 23, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Isn't the fundamental driver of resource consumption population?

Like this comment
Posted by Greg
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 23, 2009 at 3:16 pm

Bryan Long: Good to hear that you think nuclear is part of the answer. I think the weakness in your argument is that you do not credit nuclear with being base load. Solar and wind are not. It may, indeed, be a tripod, but not all three legs are of the same length. Without nuclear, there is no real hope.

Lisa: Do I detect some hope, in that you describe yourself as "formerly anti-nuclear activist"? Does this mean that you have abandoned that illogical position?

Like this comment
Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Killing industries that produce efficient energy options while supplementing very expensive energy sources serves only to destroy an economy, drive up poverty and make it impossible for the average person to even afford energy.

Let the market, let private ingenuity, work hard and come up with VIABLE solutions that people will buy. For example, doing the math on the CFL bulbs makes them much more affordable in the long run, so guess what, people are buying them. But what if Govt had FORCED a less efficient bulb on the people? It would have hurt more than it helped.

Go nuclear!

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Far more folk die for lack of affordable energy than have ever died from even the dirtiest generation practices, oddly enough from air pollution. The woman who spends hours every day picking up fuel will then burn it in a poor fireplace, subtracting decades from her life. At least half the cost of energy here is unrelated to legitimate production costs; it is punitive makeregs.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I do know how to turn stupidity into money - Libluds do it every day.

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