I work down on Wall Street where the lingering effects of Superstorm Sandy are the dozens of vacant buildings still being rehabbed from flooding. Those blackened windows don’t just mean displaced workers, they mean lost jobs and businesses.
A born and bred New Yorker, I love this island. After September 11 I felt the threat of terrorism for the first time. After Sandy, I see the threat of rising sea levels in my city. While the nation can’t seem to agree on the cause of climate change, since Sandy, one thing we all seem to agree on is that extreme weather events are increasing.
I deal with my concern about climate change in my work. I look for stories about wind developers, solar financiers and clean tech entrepreneurs; as well as about the companies making and financing conventional energy. I often wonder why more people on Wall Street don’t worry about the same things as me: why aren’t we all fighting for a clean energy future for our country and children?
One company that has taken on that challenge, unlike any other, is Google. If you look at the annual reports of many, many large corporations, the word “sustainability” is everywhere. Companies are lowering their carbon footprint in how they manufacture and transport their goods, and bragging about it to their shareholders. But Google has gone much farther than anyone else, and seems to have done it under the radar.
Google has spent over $1 billion on clean energy. They own wind farms and solar farms. They invest in carbon offsets; new clean tech companies and businesses that are coming up with new ways to fund clean energy. They pay for expensive clean energy lobbying in Washington, and continually increase the efficiency of their server farms.
A few years ago, when I first started covering energy, I heard Google’s leader for climate and energy initiatives, Dan Reicher, give a terrific speech at a Wall Street clean energy event. He has since moved on to Stanford University, and has become a powerful advocate in Washington pushing to change the tax laws for more parity between clean energy and fossil fuel companies.
Last year Google hired another brilliant, and politically connected, powerhouse, Arun Majumdar, to lead their energy effort. Majumdar most recently was the director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, an incubator for new energy technologies at the U.S. Department of Energy.
Sometimes mocked for their simple declaration of “don’t be evil” by advertisers who can’t get their names to appear on the first search page, Google is being very, very good about energy. Unafraid to attack the energy industry status quo, the engineers in Mountainview are making a tremendous, measurable difference in stimulating a clean energy economy in the U.S. Why aren’t other companies following their lead?