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Saturday, Sep 23, 2023

Running Out of Juice

Every man has his regrets, but you gotta believe when a man is worth as much as Warren Buffet – somewhere north of $50 billion these days – he’s likely to have fewer than the average schmo. Still, I doubt that even Buffet likes looking at that April 2009 Fortune magazine where he’s featured on the cover. You may know the one; it’s Buffet, next to a BYD sedan, along with the huge headline: “Buffet’s Electric Car.” Turns out that even the Oracle of Omaha is far from perfect. He was convinced that Chinese battery and carmaker BYD Co. Ltd. was the Next Big Thing in U.S. transportation. He even spent $230 million of Berkshire Hathaway money for a 10 percent equity stake in the Shenzhen company. The rest has been well documented. A year later, Los Angeles jangled a $5.2 million incentive package in front of the company to lure its U.S. headquarters, with the hope it would open a local manufacturing plant. The company talked about creating at least 150 jobs by 2011, all premised on demand for electric vehicles – that simply never materialized. In fact, BYD has yet to make or sell a single electric car in the United States. Could it not be clearer that the time hasn’t yet come for electric cars? And that’s not to mention the similar troubles at L.A. electric car startup Coda Automotive and the bankruptcy of Anaheim luxury electric car maker Fisker Automotive. The time may come when the vehicles can compete with gas or hybrid cars. That will be when they they can boast similar driving ranges and are price-competitive – without big government subsidies. They are not even close now. So BYD is doing the right thing, as outlined in our page one story by reporter Mark Madler. It has bought property in Lancaster where it will build electric buses for the U.S. market, something it already does successfully for the Chinese market. Buses have fixed routes and go shorter distances, potentially making them ideal for electric power, assuming BYD can get its costs down. Let the company spend a few years – maybe even a few decades – perfecting its technology and maybe one day, just one day, we’ll all have an electric car in our driveway. • • • Has anybody noticed how the flurry of coverage has subsided over KPMG partner and Agoura Hills resident Scott London, who was charged with insider trading after passing stock tips on to a golf buddy? When the news broke earlier this month, the scandal was covered as if it were the next Enron. Turns out London ruined his life and reputation over what might have been less than $50,000 in alleged payoffs. This was a man who had it all: a nice home, family, a high-paying job, respect in the community and in his profession. Ultimately, the story died down because it was small scandal – and a pathetically sad case. It all reminds you that no matter how well you think you know a person, it’s impossible to really know what’s buried in someone’s heart and mind. • • • So I guess the porn industry wasn’t kidding when it said it would move out of town should Measure B, the initiative requiring condoms in adult shoots, pass. FilmLA, a non-profit that tracks film permitting in the county, said this month that it has only issued two permits for adult films all year. This for an industry that normally receives 500 or so annually. Apparently, the industry is awaiting the outcome of litigation over the measure, though as we reported earlier this month, some producers are exploring Ventura County. I’m no fan of the industry, as I’ve expressed earlier, but lately I’ve begun to wonder if the condom proponents are like generals fighting the last war. Should Measure B stand, big production companies that actually follow regulations will be hit the hardest. But anyone who has been spammed by adult content well knows that in the same way song-sharing sites upended the music industry, video-sharing sites are doing the same to the adult industry. Countless numbers of the sites featuring viewer-posted videos seem to be leading forum for porn these days. Try regulating that. Laurence Darmiento is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at editor@sfvbj.com.

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