Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt, who recently unveiled a sweeping $4.4 trillion energy plan, will join Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign trail this week to publicly back the Illinois Senator, according to the Wall Street Journal. What a good way to start off a week! I recently wrote an op-ed for the Forbes Energy Genius report that said Obama should consider making Schmidt his chief cleantech officer. I thought it was a long-shot fun idea at the time, but perhaps it wasn’t so wacky after all.
Schmidt tells the WSJ he is personally backing Obama — not representing Google — and will make his first appearance with Obama at an event in Florida on Tuesday. At an EcoForum event in San Francisco in September, Schmidt chided the federal government for a lack of leadership on energy issues, and I personally asked him if, since he was disappointed with energy policy, he was planning on backing either presidential campaign. At that time he said he hadn’t backed one candidate over the other.
Seems like, with the momentum of the Obama campaign and just about two weeks before the election, Schmidt either changed his mind or felt it was the right time to go public with his support. Colin Powell publicly backed Obama yesterday, and the WSJ says Schmidt will join other tech leaders in public support of Obama.
So what would make Schmidt a good candidate for that planned Chief Technology Officer (or Chief Cleantech Officer, as we advocated) role? Schmidt has increased his presence as a public speaker and political advocate recently and draws massive crowds wherever he goes, most recently at a Commonwealth Club event earlier this month.
Schmidt has also taken a very public leadership position in advocating how the U.S. can get off fossil fuels and fight climate change. Google’s plan, dubbed Clean Energy 2030, calls for almost all of U.S. electricity to come from renewables by 2030 and for plug-ins to account from almost all of new car sales by 2030. The search engine giant says while the plan will cost $4.4 trillion (in undiscounted 2008 dollars), it will ultimately save $5.4 trillion, delivering a net savings of $1 trillion over the life of the plan. Google was also the second most active cleantech investor last quarter, which, frankly, even for someone who covers this industry closely, was downright shocking.
Schmidt has led the search engine giant since 2001. A few months ago a former Google employee who joined the company early and rode the rocket of Google’s rapid rise, told me the only thing he could see having as much momentum as Google in the early days is the Obama campaign. Perhaps Schmidt feels the same way.