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UPDATED: Google drops ALEC, strengthens its commitment to clean energy

by Brian Johnson

September 22, 2014

UPDATE: Facebook and Yelp have announced that they too are moving on from ALEC. On Tuesday, Facebook said: “While we have tried to work within ALEC to bring that organization closer to our view on some key issues, it seems unlikely that we will make sufficient progress so we are not likely to renew our membership in 2015.” Less than 24 hours later, Yelpconfirmedthat it had let its ALEC membership expire several months ago. The moves leave Yahoo and eBay as some of the internet companies that haven’t yet left the notorious corporate lobby group.

The clean energy commitment of one of the worlds most powerful brands just became even more real. Today, Google CEO Eric Schmidt revealed that his company would be dropping its membership in ALEC, the notorious corporate lobby group which has pushed for legislation that denies the reality of climate change and attacks renewable energy policy in states around the country.

Schmidt cited ALECs denial of climate change as the reason for Googles exit. Speaking on The Diane Rehm Show, Schmidt said:

The facts of climate change are not in question anymore, everyone understands that climate change is occurring, and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place, and we should not be aligned with such people. They are just literally lying.

Googles membership in ALEC was at odds with the companys otherwise leading actions on clean energy. Along with other major IT companies like Apple and Facebook, Google has committed to powering its data centers with 100% renewable energy. That means popular Google services like YouTube, its search engine, and Gmail are on course to being powered completely by clean sources like wind and solar.

Such commitments, in turn, have moved utilities to offer new sources of renewable power in place of dirty energy like coal, gas and nuclear. Just last year, for example, Google, Apple and Facebook pushed Duke Energy to offer renewable power for their operations in North Carolina.

ALEC has stood for the opposite. Driven by fossil fuel members like Exxon Mobil, Peabody Energy, and Duke Energy, ALEC has lobbied to tear down renewable portfolio standards, impose fees for rooftop solar panels on homes and businesses, and even teach climate denialism in schools. Not exactly fitting policies for an innovation-driven, science-motivated company like Google.

Googles move increases the pressure on other IT companies to also drop their ALEC memberships, including Facebook, eBay, Yahoo, and Yelp. All of these companies have rationalized their ALEC memberships on the grounds of being able to have influence over privacy, net neutrality, and other issues core to their business. But with Googles departure and Microsoft dropping its membership in ALEC earlier this year, that rationale is growing exceedingly thin.

Brian Johnson

By Brian Johnson

Brian is a campaigner with Greenpeace's Climate and Energy Team. Follow him @BFWJohnson.

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