Today Google announced that it is launching a lobbying campaign specifically to take aim at clean energy. Though Google had record 2010 lobbying expenditures, they perhaps have not yet paid off for green technology or renewable energy infrastructure.
Google spent nearly $5.2 million on political lobbying last year, a 28 percent increase over 2009, more than Facebook, Yahoo, and Apple combined. According to OpenSecrets.com, energy is among the top issues that Google applies those dollars to. Correspondingly, Google has consistently earned the highest scores for political advocacy on our Cool IT Leaderboard ranking of climate leadership.
Although in Obama’s State of the Union address he expressed a goal to have 80 percent of electricity in the U.S. come from renewable sources by 2035 (unfortunately not excluding clean coal, nuclear power, or natural gas), Google’s upping of the ante is perhaps a reflection of growing public skepticism about what’s achievable in this political climate.
It’s a good sign that Google is increasing its focus and determination in the face of budget cuts and other threats to strong climate and energy policies and R&D for transformative clean energy solutions. But the company’s efforts would be even stronger if the rest of the IT sector would throw collective muscle behind a similar agenda.
The big IT brands ultimately have a lot to gain from a more efficient power grid backed by renewables, but many have demonstrated a myopic view of energy, focusing only on energy efficiency gains to address the industry’s own growing footprint. We’ve been on Facebook’s case, for example, over its failure to prioritize clean sources of energy to power its data centers.
We are urging Facebook and other IT leaders to follow Google’s lead, and throw the weight of their lobbyists and extremely recognizable brands behind the issue. The IT sector has much untapped potential to educate consumers and lawmakers, and help move the economy toward a major breakthrough for clean energy.
The line in the sand has been drawn. Will IT companies join Google in boldly pushing for transformative policy action to stimulate innovation, or will they continue to stand on the sidelines cheerleading, but letting dirty energy opponents lobby away our clean energy future?