One of the larger aspects of my work at Blue Sky Sessions is google. As a local web firm dedicated to providing quality online marketing solutions and SEM, I must closely watch the search engine to find out how to use search results and paid advertising to leverage our client’s online presence.
Just today there was some news from the goog that was a bit unusual — google has published its green energy manifesto.
Google.org, the philanthropic wing of the massive conglomerate, has been around for some time now, investing here and there in causes that it deems to be worthy. One of their main initiatives has been the RE<C program, which stands to improve the availability and cost of renewable energy until it is less expensive than coal (renewable energy less than coal). So far google has favored three specific types of renewable energy: wind, solar thermal, and geothermal.
This might just seem intuitive (wind, sun, earth) at first glance, but it is in fact just a bot more complicated than it appears. Instead of investing its notable sums of money in the standard renewable wind and solar concepts, google instead prefers to invest with small startups that have somewhat different approaches to these energy sources. Taking a look at the google.org grants and investments section, the business that goog has invested the most money in are eSolar and Bright Source energy. These companies are working on what is called solar-thermal renewable energy, which is different than photovoltaic energy in that solar thermal uses mirrors to focus light on a target with the intent that the target then generate heat and then steam to power conventional generating turbines. Photovoltaic solar, on the other hand converts the sun’s rays directly to energy.
The advantage of thermal solar is that photovoltaic solar panels are made out of semiconductors, which is a generic name for the expensive stuff that is also used to produce computer chips etc, which essentially means that photovoltaic panels are expensive to produce. In order to become a replacement for fossil fuels, solar needs to be able to be inexpensive and therefore scalable. Anyway, the idea for solar thermal is to place huge arrays of mirrors in high sun areas, such as deserts, that would not be environmentally sensitive anyway.
So google likes to invest in small start up firms that are trying to do things better than the conventional renewable technology of this time. That is all fine and good, but google did not have a clearly defined broad goal until it released its “Clean Energy 2030” directive today. The directive states that the USA should be free of using oil and coal for electricity generation by 2030. This is quite the ambitious plan!
Let me try to give some commentary from the West Michigan perspective:
West Michigan is strongly associated with the conservative christian political faction, and I am in some ways part of this faction, however i greatly disagree with their environmental stance. From my viewpoint, I see that Christians are called by God to be stewards of the earth, and all of its resources. Christian opposition comes from mostly two angles, which I hope to dispel a bit at least:
- Disbelief in the theory of Climate Change caused by human activity
- Government intervention in the free market economy should be as limited as possible
Now I won’t say one way or another as to if I believe in climate change, in fact I am somewhat on the fence with this, but the important thing is that my opinion on this issue does not affect my reaction to it. I believe strongly that if there is even a remote chance that climate change is occurring, the only prudent approach to the situation is to address the cause. If by chance humans are causing this problem, we had better deal with it before disaster is upon us.
Regarding intervention in the economy, I would say that the current credit crysis in the US has shown what the lack of some government oversight can do. Given my background having graduated from Hope College with a degree in business, my economics sense is generally conservative and non-interventionist, however I believe this is not a sector that we can fool around with as there will not be any “redos” or chances for bailouts when things go wrong.
Back to the local aspects of this, within the last three weeks a new law was passed regarding renewable energy here in Michigan. That law mandates that by 2015 ten percent of energy consumed in Michigan should come from renewable sources. Look at the massive difference by Google’s vision and Michigan’s little step! The sad part of it all was that it was difficult to pass this law because of conservative opposition.
Anyhow, there is my first green rant for the site. I wonder what is going to happen to using “google” as a verb when people realize all the other aspects (surprising or not) there are to the search giant.