The Golden (State) Rules

Let’s start with a multiple choice quiz:

California is:

A: Home to world-class researchers and entrepreneurs.

B: A progressive-thinking state that leads the world in environmental trends and regulations.

C: A business-hating bureaucracy that chases away companies and jobs.

D: All of the above.

The correct answer, of course, is D, All of the above.

There’s a lot of innovation occurring in the Golden State, in particular at a place called Port Tech LA, a think tank/incubator for entrepreneurs developing port-centric and environmentally friendly technology.

The annual Port Tech LA Expo is a celebration of all that’s good about geekdom: displays of new energy-efficient plasma lighting, grown men in suits and ties whizzing about an exhibit hall riding the “world’s most compact electric scooter for urban commuters,” new ways to use Geographic Information System mapping in transportation, and a deployable technology solution for grid-scale energy storage.

I didn’t understand exactly how the energy storage works, but I do understand it’s important. Wind farms throughout the Pacific Northwest had to shut down last year because they were creating too much energy for the existing grid to store — energy that just went to waste.

At the same event, Mario Cordero, chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission and a former Long Beach port commissioner, presented a synopsis of clean port policies and efforts under way around the country.

It’s an impressively long list, but just a few years ago, Long Beach and Los Angeles were riding solo with those efforts. Cordero remembered talking about the San Pedro Bay port plan at a 2006 conference in Houston.

The speaker after Cordero in Houston was a port commissioner from the Georgia Ports Authority who told the crowd, “Come to Georgia, and you won’t have to worry about the costs of a clean air plan.” Georgia ports are now on board the environmental bandwagon, but Cordero said it’s often true that one port’s clean air policy is another port’s marketing plan.

The moral of Cordero’s story was that California was first and the rest of the world is following — so don’t be afraid to lead.

In many ways, that’s true. It’s a good thing the Southern California ports started the global drive toward cleaner operations. But not every part of the clean ports plan made sense. Does anyone remember the drive for low-profile cranes to lessen “visual pollution” at the ports?

Taken in total, California laws, taxes, regulations and policies are a drag on business and chase jobs to other locations. The state unemployment rate is 8.9 percent, 1.6 percentage points higher than the national rate. And in the Inland Empire just east of the ports, the jobless rate is still in the double digits.

It looks like there could be a whole new round of groundbreaking port regulations coming out of Southern California. Long Beach Port Commissioner Rich Dines wants to require any new building at the ports be done in a way that conserves energy.

Commonsense rules? I like it.

Contact Stephanie Nall at

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