This week, the world's most famous search and everything else company waded into a ballot battle in Google's home state of California. At an event held at the company's Mountain View HQ , Google 'Green Energy Czar' Bill Weihl and a handful of other green business personalities announced their collective opposition to California's Proposition 23. Prop 23 will be on state ballots this November and, if passed, would block a previously passed law that sets out plans to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions. It would suspend that law, known as A-B 32, until the state's unemployment rate dips below 5.5 percent and stays there for a year.
We called Weihl to ask - why does the world's foremost information company care so much about promoting clean energy and fighting climate change, anyway? Here's part of what he had to say:
Weihl: We think that climate change is a vital issue facing California, facing the nation, facing the world. And it's something that we feel is important to address. We particularly feel a responsibility because we are now a pretty big company. We use a lot of energy to run all the servers that drive all the services that we provide - Gmail, search, Calendar, Documents, etc.. All of those things rely on servers and data centers and all of those things consume energy and we want to be as responsible as we can in the use of that energy. We think that AB 32 (The California law that Prop 23 would block if passed) and other policy mechanisms like it are an important mechanism for making our energy use and everyone else's more sustainable.
Daniweb: The folks on the other side of this say it will raise energy prices and slow the already painfully sluggish economic recovery. Given that, what are the opportunities you see in Clean Tech for Google and California?
Weihl: Over the next 40 or 50 years, I think it's pretty clear the world is going to have to remake its energy infrastructure. That's true on the supply side and how we generate power, it's true on transportation, it's true in all the devices we have in homes an offices that use power, and in buildings, etc..
There's an enormous economic opportunity for businesses there and California has been at the forefront of innovation in all of those areas. So there's a multi-trillion dollar opportunity there that I think California is poised to take advantage of, and AB 32 really positions us - you can think of it as an investment - to really seize that opportunity and that's true across a whole range of technology.
Daniweb: So what do you think will happen next if you get your way and Prop 23 fails?
Weihl: I think there are about 500,000 jobs in clean tech in the state at the moment and I think about a quarter of those have been added in the last few years. So it is a significant growth sector and I think likely to grow significantly more, particularly if we give the predictability of maintaining AB 32 and moving ahead with it. If we see policies see-sawing back and forth, there's a lot of evidence that will cause investors go elsewhere, perhaps overseas and I think it would just be a shame for us to throw away this kind of opportunity.