Google to Outspend US Government on Environment

Google campusIt is always a good day for me when I get to write about Google. But the day gets even better when I get to combine Google with the environment; something that happens more often than you would imagine. With my ongoing report on the US 09 Budget, I’m well aware of just how little the US Government is going to be putting in to the environment.

Let’s just make a note here – Green Options could invest more in the environment than the US Federal Government is planning.

A report is circulating regarding my favorite tech company, that they are pledging themselves to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in to big alternative-energy projects started by commercial businesses. They plan to focus on projects that have traditionally had a hard time getting financing. Thus, I would imagine the majority of such projects will get financing, considering Bush’s position on such things.

The executive in charge of their environmental push, Dan Reicher, said Wednesday that “There are a lot of technologies that get to the pilot scale and look promising, but the first few large commercial projects deploying those technologies, financing those can be extremely difficult.”

“Often the usual equity and debt players will say come back to us when you’ve demonstrated this at scale,” said Reicher, director of climate and energy initiatives for Google’s philanthropic arm,

Reicher referred to the “Valley of Death,” a term used in the technology industry to describe the difference between successfully developing a new technology and amassing scale. This is something that Google is aware of, and their pledge to invest such moneys as they can in to projects is hoped to alleviate this problem.

“When you get to building a commercial-scale project in the energy world, you can be looking easily at hundreds of millions or even across the billion dollar threshold,” Reicher said. “Over years we’ll be looking at hundreds of millions of dollars. So we’re very mindful of the Valley of Death.”

Google has already committed large amounts of finances to various green projects, both within their own company and without. They’ve committed $20 million to funding start-up firms researching solar-thermal and high-altitude wind power, and another $10 million to Pasadena, California-based eSolar Inc to support research and development on solar thermal power.

Authors Note – if you want to weigh Google’s proposed spending, check out my three part series on the US Budget. Check out Budget 09: How’d the Environment Do – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Reuters via ENN – Google to help green technologies amass scale

Photo Courtesy of End User via Flickr

27 thoughts on “Google to Outspend US Government on Environment”

  1. Thanks, Carlos.
    First, The Government doesn’t earn money. It doesn’t have any money of it’s own. It’s not your wealthy benevolent uncle who can buy you a tricycle when your feeling blue. The money the Government spends is either taxpayers’ money or a loan from the Federal Reserve, and, even if the principal is never repaid, the interest is paid with taxpayers’ money.

    That said, It’s important to notice what is happening with companies like Google and how good it is for the taxpaying public. Companies like Google know who their market is probably better than anyone. They realize that there’s a stigma attached to businesses that get big and begin to dominate a market. They know they can maintain the respect of their market by giving back. most companies these day will try to do that with “cash back rewards” or “special member discounts” or some such crap, but Google has picked up on what’s more important to us. I’m not saying this is merely a market strategy for Google, but it shows how an educated public can influence large scale businesses to do good.
    Furthermore, if the taxpaying public had less taxes to pay and more money to invest or spend on their own, they would have the opportunity to “vote with their dollar” while spending money on goods and services they are going to purchase anyway, and choose to do business with companies that they feel have the public’s well-being in mind.

  2. I like different opinions and intellectual/verbal confrontation, though.
    Just a few facts, which could influence our thinking about the topic:

    – American Government-Federal Government and all of its agencies serve to all American people and is fully responsible to American people
    – a percentage, DOE spends for renewable energy sources is quite MISERABLE, comparable to cash and other resources DOE spends for supporting coal, nuclear, oil/gas
    – budget proposal is $3 Trillion!!! of every Tax payer dollar
    – American President and most important people in Washington are personally involved in oil or nuclear industry as important shareholders, and as such highly motivated to keep their investments/businesses running as well as possible
    – power lobbies and their presence/influence in Washington, such as oil, nuclear, coal, are still far to strong
    – price of oil broke the magic line of $100 per barrel, which could represent a point of no return for all ‘dirty’ – not Eco sustainable energy resources
    – Britain is spending more than $150 billion just for clearing up highly radioactive nuclear rubbish from old nuclear power plants (that’s not a new quality investment, but just ‘a cover up’ for old sins – storing a bit deeper into the earth) and almost nothing – in percentage points, towards renewable
    – USA is the world leader in solar power research
    – the cost of one project, which boost the efficiency rate of solar cells to 50% !!! in regular conditions was just $13 million!
    (Why they haven’t been rewarded by $1 billion, which they certainly deserve? – that would have been just 4 days of the cost of the war in Iraq?)

  3. Good to see companies aren’t waiting on government to realize there is money to be saved and made in what I would call the coming “green energy revolution”.
    Businesses and individuals will and are seeing the benefit of going green.

  4. While Carlos may have over generalized the government’s role, Retroboy is certainly thinking in the wrong direction. Protecting the environment is a no-brainer – don’t shit where you eat. However, why should Big Gov spend billions of tax payer dollars on researching commercial products? That’s why companies have R&D departments, and Universities fund experiments. A simplier solution is through sensible taxation. Heavier taxes on pollution generating technologies and no tax on zero-emission technologies (or at least until the company is on it’s feet). This provides a big push for current industry to migrate to clean sources, and opens the market for newcomers. Investors would like the system too, since they have a chance for higher returns if the new company is tax-exempt for say, the first ten years of operation.

    More importantly though, I think Google is getting ready to fund a commercial-scale fusion power plant. The late, great Robert Bussard gave a lecture at the Google Campus a while ago on his company’s research through a US Naval grant. Essentially, they figured out all the physics of building a fusion reactor based on the principle of inertial electro-static confinement. He said that a full-scale plant could be build for around $200 million dollars, and if fueled with hydrogen-boron would produce no harmful radiation. After the project was de-funded due to lack of money (Iraq war sponged it all up) the equipment was sold to SpaceDev, who also hired on most of Bussard’s staff.

  5. I might tepidly agree with what Carlos wrote if corporations would actually invest in their communities and try to be more ethical in their practices. But the reality is Google’s investment in alternative energy is a very rare event. In our hypocritical market-based economy, the primary goal of big business is to generate more wealth, for themselves and for stockholders. Social causes are far down the list of priorities, and often just for PR and other media events. Personally, I believe government should be investing heavily in the public infrastructure, along with corporations, because in the long run that’s what will make for a more unified and stable society.

  6. Mr. Hill,

    Though I’m guessing your choice of title for this article was aimed more at curb appeal than substance, it has obviously misled a number of your readers into fervent and baseless anti-government bravado. The U.S. government actually spends more on environmental intiatives through subsidies or direct research than the entire rest of the world’s nations combined. If you look at the majority of ‘independent’ or ‘private sector’ green energy research and development projects ongoing (be they solar, wind, tidal, etc), you will find that 80% are underwritten by DOE, state or federal agencies, and that’s only for projects on American soil. Though numbers are a poor indicator of actual involvement, OceanPower Ltd (the inventors of a tidal energy unit called the PowerBouy) has been almost completely underwritten by federal or state governmental programs, in their case New Jersey, California and the U.S. Navy, their subsidies and grants to date for the PowerBouy total in the 100’s of millions. That’s not counting the UK government’s contract with the same company to build tidal farms off of Scotland, another 80m for R&D and fielding this year.

    The FY09 allocations for environmental spending are actually still in draft, and will remain so for a while as it is an election year. If you look at historic trends, nearly every congressional budget allocation or financial proposal follows a curve proportionate to the FY deadlines, more so during an election cycle where lawmakers are loathe to commit early to initiatives of any kind, be they social or environmental. Regardless, those allocations have nothing to do at ALL with DOE budgeting for both operations and research intiatives, both of which are ridiculously huge by comparison to anything save the defense budget.

    I only ask you and your readers to remember that the government, with all its flaws and filibuster, is still the reason that we even HAVE the solar panel (developed under a government contract for, that’s right, NASA, by a Michigan technology firm, please look up the patents if you like), and is still the largest contributor to environmental research and development initiatives on the globe. Even the EU, who has since bypassed the U.S. in its use of renewable energy sources, was GIVEN that technology by the U.S. C’mon people…do your research. Private sector entities, most of whose fortunes were built on the backs of government-funded programs, are happy now to bask in the sunlight of philanthropic praise – however they never forget, and neither should you, where they got their start, and who still signs the bottom line.


  7. The US has a lot of money that is not being used wisely, no surprise there. However i would suggest rather that the citizens themselves throw money together to build solar cell feilds on the roofs of their community buildings to cut costs and use those to build electric sub stations which store electrical energy at night and release it back to the local grid durring the day when its more expensive. Also mandating all business to shut off excess lights in buildings which are empty at night.
    Switch all the street lights to led bulbs and use motion sensors to control them. heck use otion sensors with delayed timers in all rooms to cut power consumption. i currently have LED lightbulbs which only use watts in my home and even a few 15 watt energy saving light bulbs as well. i think more of these could be adopted as well as a lot of new tools which are available and in fact have been available for a while now. awareness is only now increasing because of the increased cost of energy and fuel where people are being forced to face their long term costs of living.
    I like what Google is doing by taking their own initiative to tackle some of the issues however sing they have such powerful tools such as advertisment capital they should be helping increse awareness of these products through Advertisments online and on TV as well.

  8. Sorry, I mean India’s Air Car was invented in the French private sector, with no government subsidies, and it was acquired by an Indian motor company.

  9. @ Wes

    India’s Air Car was invented in the private sector. I’d hope some of you idiots realize when you talk about the Federal government investing “billions” of dollars, it isn’t THEIR dollars, it’s all of ours (or borrowed from China on our behalf and our children will inherit the debt & interest). I’d also hope all of you realize we are already hugely indebted to foreign nations, so appropriating money to be involved in deficit spending will only dig our grave deeper. In conclusion, I hope you LOVE the environment, because if we keep down this road to bankruptcy, we’ll all be living our lives out in the woods and making due with what we can. 😀

  10. I agree with carlos. The government is going broke and we need to cut spending big time. But not only in green things. There is plenty of other stuff that could be cut.

    I think that other organizations and businesses should step up and foot the bill.

  11. COMPLETELY disagree with the comment from Carlos.

    The Government should be DOING this, not letting some third party do it for them! We look to our country’s leaders for actual leadership in things that will help us live now and in the future. Energy is a crisis, and taking the short-sighted position that the world will fix itself is just patently ridiculous. The United States government shouldn’t be spending hundreds of millions on energy strategy and technology, they should be spending BILLIONS.

    Kudos to Google for making up for the government’s failings.

  12. Government SHOULD be involved in repairing the environment, but they are too busy occupying nations that don’t even want them there to worry about anything else except the “War” on Terror.

    I think Global Warming sounds terrorizing enough.
    Google is doing a great job, and I hope other companies will follow. I know that Bank of America’s new building is one of the greenest buildings for a company of that size worldwide.

    Nothing will change until US, India, & China pass laws and use renewable energy sources, increase the minimum MPG per vehicle, and find a solution to the ever growing problem of packaging, which is 33% of the trash in the United States.

  13. This is fantastic, its time America looks to alternative sources for energy. The US is very behind and other countries are leaving the US in the dust.
    for example India’s Air Car, which uses yeah you guessed it, AIR.

  14. I find myself doing this often now, and oddly I feel bad about it. I think mostly because of how much I loathe things like the “Bush administration” uglier words should be used, but I’m just not hat kind of guy. The point of my post though is to ask, if you’re doing the research and you’re gonna make the statement why not back it up with a number? So the ’09 budget does an awful job in terms of investing in alternate energy, well how bad of a job $1 million, $5 million, $100 million? It just seems insincere to say I’ve got a magic number behind this card that makes those guys everyone hates look bad but I’m not gonna share it because I’m too lazy or because of the scale of such numbers it makes it look less bad and I’m too lazy to explain why it’s bad even if it looks big…I maybe picking nits I’ve been accused of worse but this kind of things irks me because it’s the kind of information I need most when talking about such issues in conversation with people of a different view point. Just my $.02

  15. You got to be kidding me Carlos!
    This is all the more reason for the government to get involved. Just because someone else is stepping in to pick up the slack doesn’t mean the government should just give up. Google won’t be able to pay for all the expenses that need to be paid and energy conglomerates have to much money in the traditional system to put their position in risk by investing in these alternatives. The government is the only entity that can risk these billions of dollars on ecological issues.

  16. This is great news. It show that good/great things can and will happen when the governemtn gets out of the way, rather than inserting itself needlessly.

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