Google to Wean US off Coal and Oil
Google has announced its own plan to wean America off the use of coal and oil by 2030. The plan, “Clean Energy 2030,” was led by Jeffery Greenblatt, Google’s Climate and Energy Technology Manager. And though some may suggest that Google should stick to what they know best – the internet – I’m just glad someone is doing something about this.
The financial cost of this plan is not insignificant. Google put the cost at about $4.4 trillion in undiscounted 2008 dollars, but stress that the savings are even greater, sitting at about $5.4 trillion, resulting in a net savings of $1 trillion over the 22 year life of the plan.
The plan, which can be found in full here, follows in the wake of a challenge by Al Gore, and a plan by billionaire T. Boone Pickens. And like the two that came before it, Google has a favorable record when it comes to the environment.
Google has wrongly come under fire for using too much energy for their data centers. However one need only look at their recent record of attempts to reduce their carbon footprint to see that these claims are baseless. Stepping away from the fact that a lot of Google’s installations are powered by solar generation, Google is also supporting the development of new technologies.
Their new plan includes reducing, based upon stats from the Energy Information Administration’s current baselines, energy use in the following categories;
- Fossil fuel-based electricity generation by 88%
- Vehicle oil consumption by 38%
- Dependence on imported oil (currently 10 million barrels per day) by 33%
- Electricity-sector CO2 emissions by 95%
- Personal vehicle sector CO2 emissions by 38%
- US CO2 emissions overall by 48% (40% from today’s CO2 emission level)
Google believe that these goals can be reached through several means.
- Deploying aggressive end-use electrical energy efficiency measures to reduce demand 33%.
- Baseline EIA demand is projected to increase 25% by 2030. In addition, the increase in plug-in vehicles (see below) increases electricity demand another 8%. Thus, our efficiency reductions keep demand flat at the 2008 level.
- Replacing all coal and oil electricity generation, and about half of that from natural gas, with renewable electricity:
- 380 gigawatts (GW) wind: 300 GW onshore + 80 GW offshore
- 250 GW solar: 170 GW photovoltaic (PV) + 80 GW concentrating solar power (CSP)
- 80 GW geothermal: 15 GW conventional + 65 GW enhanced geothermal systems (EGS)
- Increasing plug-in vehicles (hybrids & pure electrics) to 90% of new car sales in 2030, reaching 42% of the total US fleet that year
- Increasing new conventional vehicle fuel efficiency from 31 to 45 mpg in 2030
- Accelerating the turnover of the vehicle fleet from 19 to 13 years (resulting in 25 million new vehicle sales per year in 2030, a 31% increase over the baseline)
But Google’s plan gets categorized into three basic sections; reducing demand by doing more with less; developing renewable energy that is cheaper than coal; and electrifying transportation and re-inventing the national electric grid.
These three categories are not revolutionary or new by any means, but with a business the size of Google behind the development of them, there is a chance something might be done. What needs to happen now is for the public to get behind this plan, and for other businesses and people – Gore and Pickens for example need to get on board with Google’s plan – to back this.
As one of the top emitters of greenhouse gas emissions, and one of the world’s largest economies, America has to be a leader in revolutionizing the way the world works. And since the government is so intent on not doing anything, the job has fallen to others. Thankfully, Google (along with people like Gore and Pickens) have picked up the mantle, and will hopefully run with it to the finish line.
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