Google plans to power America with renewable energy

Friday, October 03, 2008

From an article by Verne Kopytoff and Andrew S. Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Google Inc. is fleshing out its plan for a more environmentally friendly America with details of a proposal to curtail the use of oil and coal by 2030.

Everyone from Al Gore to T. Boone Pickens has a clean energy plan these days, so why not Google?

In short, the Mountain View Internet giant is calling for a big push in wind, solar and geothermal power to largely replace fossil fuels. Hybrid and electric cars would also get a major boost.

Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, spoke of his company's vision Wednesday night at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Earlier this month, he gave a more high-level - as in less detailed - pitch at the Corporate EcoForum.

Here are some of the ideas:

Electricity: Google hopes to reduce the energy industry's reliance on coal (currently the source of 50 percent of electricity), natural gas (20 percent) and nuclear energy (20 percent). Instead, it wants renewables to largely keep America's lights on.

Wind power should grow from a relatively insignificant force today to 29 percent of U.S. electricity production. Geothermal should grow to 15 percent, while solar should increase to 12 percent. Natural gas, hydroelectric power and nuclear energy would account for the rest.

If the transformation takes place, and electricity consumption remains flat, fossil fuel use would be cut by 88 percent and carbon emissions would be reduced by 95 percent by 2030, Google projects.

Vehicles: Getting consumers to buy hybrid and electric cars is the central theme of the plan. Sales should ramp up from 100,000 in 2010 to 22 million in 2030.

If coupled with efforts to improve the energy efficiency of conventional vehicles, among other things, the United States would consume 38 percent less oil compared with the projections for 2008.