This week I’ve been running Earth2Tech from Tahoe (yes, tough life), while attending the first Techonomy event, a conference created by former Fortune writers that looks at the intersection of technology and the economy. The biggest news out of the show so far, has been a rare 45 minute interview that Google CEO Eric Schmidt gave to the media on Wednesday night, which I got a chance to video with my trusty flip and ask a few questions of my own. I posted the video to sister site GigaOM on Wednesday night, but wanted to point out one clip to my fellow Earth2Tech readers.
I asked Schmidt if he still stood behind Google’s energy plan, which he spoke about almost two years ago now, and within which called for 100 percent of U.S. power generation to come from green power in two decades, 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, and the plan would have also allegedly reduced emissions by half. He also said at the time that “We have a total failure of political leadership, at least in the U.S., and perhaps the world.”
I get the feeling that he was considering stumping for politics back then, so it wasn’t uncommon for Schmidt to make those kinds of political speeches (I even nominated him for Obama’s Clean Energy Czar in a Forbes article I wrote shortly before that speech). When I asked Schmidt if he was still passionate about Google’s energy plan at the Techonomy event this week he said that he still stood behind it, but that Google is fundamentally an information company not an energy company. Here’s his remarks on Google’s energy plan, and the embedded video below (energy remarks are at 25 minutes):
I think since we did that work [the energy plan] everything has sort of proved the underlying arguments correct. Let’s just review. Warmest summer in Moscow’s history, lowest temperature — 80 degrees. Huge, huge issues with melting permafrost. Five point five degrees hotter in Europe than normal for the summer. Five degrees colder in California for the summer. All of these are evidence of climate change. Climate change remember increases variability. As the world gets hotter, you get greater variations. Anybody who thinks that it’s not happening, just look at any of the metrics, there are twenty of them. Whether it’s rate of glacial melting, evaporation of waters, issues of arctic sea ice. Its all obvious. And people who sort of deny this, its overwhelming true that its occurring, its very hard to take them as anything but just plain wrong.
There’s a question of what to do about it. So what can Google do about it? We can try to model behavior and invest in energy technologies, biofuels, solar plants. We are trying now to take our cash — we buy dirty energy — and invest the equivalent amount in renewable energy and equal it out. The new buildings we build are LEED certified. We are trying to set an example.
The reason I don’t have an even stronger answer is that we are not fundamentally in the energy business. We’re in the information business. So our fundamental contribution is going to be more information, better management, better instrumentation. We are not going be building nuclear power plants any time soon, that’s the job of a different set of people that we could work with.