Google showed us again on Tuesday why it tops our ranking of IT companies’ political policy efforts on the Cool IT Leaderboard. At an event hosted at Google’s headquarters, the company’s Green Energy Czar, Bill Weihl, expressed how critical the preservation of California’s climate bill — AB32 — is to innovation and the state’s economy. Proposition 23, a ballot initiative backed by oil companies, threatens to kill the existing climate legislation if it passes in November.
Google’s Weihl and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla spoke expansively about how AB32 supports the growth of California’s green tech industry and how the law’s suspension would crush the state’s competitive edge over other, particularly foreign, tech markets. Given those consequences, you would think that all of the tech companies would be ready to jump in the ring for the law’s protection. But they haven’t taken to the airwaves to convince California voters that voting yes for Prop 23 would kill the clean tech economy yet.
In the other corner, two Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro, are the top backers of the ballot initiative to crush AB32. This pair has four facilities on the list of the top 15 worst polluters in California, according to a study by the Ella Baker Center also released Tuesday.
Fossil fuel companies obviously stand to lose the most from laws that aim to reduce global warming pollution, and they are demonstrating how they will spend tens of millions of dollars so that they may continue profiting from dirty energy production. Meanwhile, the public incurs the costs of their air pollution, extraction, spills, and global warming emissions.
Tuesday’s event at the Googleplex was co-sponsored by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, of which all of the U.S. companies on the Cool IT Leaderboard are members, but only Google gets leadership points for putting its brand directly into the fight. And while the discussion showed that Google, at least, is on message, it’s not enough to preach to the choir in Silicon Valley. We hope to see CEO Eric Schmidt reengage directly in the broader energy debate after a prolonged silence this year.
Given that the oil companies are spending millions to scare voters into voting for Prop 23, it is no longer an option for IT companies to isolate themselves from climate and energy politics. Google seems to get it. And it’s high time for Google’s IT peers, such as IBM, HP, Microsoft, and Dell, to speak out in favor of AB32, as well as advocate for local, national, and international policies that will protect their business pathways and the planet.