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Summary:

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, along with Google’s energy gurus Dan Reicher and Bill Weihl, have so far served as the search giant’s most outspoken representatives of its plans to create new energy solutions. But at a dinner for the Corporate EcoForum on Monday […]

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, along with Google’s energy gurus Dan Reicher and Bill Weihl, have so far served as the search giant’s most outspoken representatives of its plans to create new energy solutions. But at a dinner for the Corporate EcoForum on Monday night, Google CEO Eric Schmidt outlined a plan to wean the U.S. off of foreign oil, fight climate change and create green jobs. And Schmidt took direct aim at world leaders, contending: “We have a total failure of political leadership, at least in the U.S., and perhaps the world.”

In his speech, Schmidt called for 100 percent of U.S. power generation to come from green power in about 20 years, as well as the replacement of half of the nation’s traditional cars with plug-in hybrids. Cleaning up the power grid would lead to the creation of 500,000 jobs in wind alone, Schmidt claimed; his plan would also allegedly reduce emissions by half.

Schmidt also spoke at length about the antiquated power grid: “We’ve got to solve the grid problem,” he said, noting that 9 percent of efficiency is lost in the current architecture. And like most infotech titans, he called for integrating technologies borne out of the Internet revolution to the grid; sophisticated routing, switching and networking technologies didn’t yet exist when the grid was built. The opportunity to remake the grid is not unlike the opportunities of the Internet and the PC, he said.

Schmidt was most passionate, however, when he chided political leadership for a failure to act. There is a lack of understanding about how technology can change the dialogue, he said. The government is about to pass a massive stimulus package, so instead of randomly handing out cash to the all the usual suspects, “Why not retool the energy infrastructure in the U.S?”

When we asked Schmidt if, given his concern over a lack of leadership, he was looking to either of the presidential candidates’ energy solutions as a better option, he declined to back one candidate over the other. He said simply that he would urge politicians to stop looking at the near-term energy options and look instead at the bigger energy picture.

Schmidt’s speech reminded us of a more business-savvy amalgamation of the calls for action put out by former Vice-President Al Gore and former Intel Chairman Andy Grove. Gore has called for 100 percent of electricity to come from clean power, but in a decade — roughly half the timeline that Schmidt laid out. But Gore in that latest speech, didn’t really address the issue of transportation. Grove, meanwhile, has called for 10 million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles on the roads in four years — somewhat different than Schmidt’s vision — but has been similarly vocal about the need to recreate the PC- and Internet-type revolutions for energy, noting, in particular, that the aftermarket for plug-in conversions is not unlike that of PC hobbyists back in the day.

Schmidt distinguished himself from those two by urging corporate America to view energy efficiency as an opportunity to reduce costs and increase return on investment. Google has create a scorecard to help boost energy efficiency, particularly in buildings — it was easy to do and saved the company money, he stressed.

So far Google has been by far the most committed company in the Internet sector to investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency and green transportation. The search engine giant has committed to hundreds of millions of dollars for research and investment into clean power, including recent investments in wind, enhanced geothermal and plug-in vehicle startups.

Google has even recently patented a floating wave-powered data center as a way to both get data centers closer to users while utilizing clean power. Schmidt said he thought putting data centers on floating barges was a clever idea, adding with a shrug, “You never know.”

  1. This is a bit of an outrage. Their core business is not renewable energy. Their stock is down significantly from its 52-week high (I’m a shareholder). I don’t want Eric Schmidt (who frankly doesn’t know the first thing about energy; he barely understands technology) talking about green energy investments. I understand they consume a lot of energy, but that doesn’t address the top line and has a marginal effect on earnings.

    Quit playing around and get back to work Eric!

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  2. [...] own plan to wean the U.S. off of foreign oil, fight climate change and create green jobs. For the full story, head over to Earth2Tech. Rating: None Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Print gigaom:[qi:_earth2tech] Share/Email Previous [...]

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  3. Actually, your entitled-shareholder comment is more outrageous.

    I think a reasonable case can be made for Sergey and Larry’s judgement and the chances of their hiring someone who knows nothing about technology are nil. Given, they could hire almost anyone, with a few exceptions such as Bill Gates, that says something in itself. Eric was already highly respected. Why not go find out where John Scully has gone and invest in whatever he’s up to?

    In case you hadn’t noticed, there is an externality called climate change that we need to be concerned about. Google is setting a good example.

    In case you also didn’t realize it, it’s THE LAW in Europe that a company has to take the social and environmental consequences of its actions into account. And if you think Google wants to thumb its nose at the EU, think again, and check why it’s just decided to anonymize IP data after 9 months.

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  4. Doug,

    as a shareholder you should be happy that google is investing in energy. Google is a mega energy consumer, do you understand energy is a huge part of their operating expenses? If electricity rates just increase one percent that is huge decrease to the bottom line for google that is why they are investing in energy, to take control of their expenses thus improving the bottom line. This the the core problem with shareholders these days, all they care about is short term performance and not long term value.

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  5. Wow, they must be smoking some good stuff over in Mountain View!

    While they’re at it, maybe Google can solve the problem of Martian warming, too, resurrect the Silicon Valley housing bubble, and walk on water.

    9% loss in the electrical system – sounds pretty good to me. Just compare to the efficiency of almost everything else (like cars and the Google 767 jumbo jet).

    Plug-in hybrids have a lot of problem – for a more realistic & real world approach, go over to Paul Rako’s Anablog ( http://www.edn.com/blog/1700000170.html ) and look at his electric car entries.

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  6. Has anyone seen Google (or one of the other search engines) provide a figure on the power required per search?

    I’m assuming that Google must have disclosed some data on (a) Total energy usage and (b) Total number of search queries. We could just divide (a)/(b), but this would obviously include some non-search energy usage (eg. daycare, cafeteria, masseuse, orkut, etc) Anybody have a figure?

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  7. This is a good thing. Google is a massive consumer of energy and besides human resources, energy is probably one of their highest costs and one that could have the biggest impact on their operating expenses — look at their efforts to build data centers near dams and other sources of cheap power.

    At their scale and projected growth, this becomes a big problem fast so they have an incentive to help the entire industry and world transition since their core service is dependent on a ready supply of cheap energy. They have already been pushing out improvements with power supplies and I am glad to see all of their efforts (and any company) to help the world transition to a renewable energy future.

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  8. His speech is on YouTube

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  9. [...] Google’s Eric Schmidt Details Energy Plan, Chides Lack of Leadership (tags: powerconsumption datacentre) [...]

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  10. Actually, Google’s energy plan looks a whole heck of a lot like the roadmap developed by Arjun Mahkijani of IEER (ieer.org) in Carbon-Free Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy (.www.ieer.org/carbonfree/) The complete book is on the website as well as executive summary, news release and articles, etc.

    If you don’t think it can be done read the book and you’ll see it most certainly can. Everything is mapped out and the numbers are tight. Arjun has never had his numbers or his engineering questioned in the many, many years he has been working on these kinds of issues.

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