Those interested in the science, economics, and policy of clean energy initiatives do not have far to look these days. Besides the government’s Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, which maps out a plan for investment in clean energy technologies, many private sector institutions are getting their feet wet as well. And I don’t mean with investments alone. Many institutions are taking the time to make internal company policies as well as external proposals for the United States as a whole with regards to reducing our carbon footprint.
One notable participant, and leader in my opinion, is Google, whose “Clean Energy 2030” proposal for reducing US dependence on fossil fuel was first presented in October of 2008. The proposal is organized to address three main areas of action: energy efficiency, renewable (carbon-free) electricity, and personal vehicles. By addressing these areas in combination, their analysis concludes that by the year 2030 the following reductions can be made from the predicted EIA baseline numbers: fossil fuel-based electricity down 88%, vehicle oil consumption down 44%, and overall US CO2 emissions down 49%.
Google is unique in that they have used their resources to not only hire staff to take the time to develop such proposals, but they also have started to implement these solutions within Google and throughout the community. Through the creation of google.org, they have committed to “address some of the world’s most urgent problems.” Under this umbrella falls such clean energy initiatives as RE<C (renewable energy costs less than coal), RechargeIT (plug-in hybrid vehicle expansion, including solar-powered recharging stations), and Google PowerMeter (smart energy monitoring). Each of these initiatives represents part of the solutions that were mapped out in Clean Energy 2030.
One of Google’s plug-in hybrid vehicles getting recharged as part of their RechargeIT initiative.
I write about these things not as a commercial for Google, but to use them as an example of what I think is an important responsibility of the private sector: the involvement of companies beyond their own internal interests. Additionally, I think it is important for people to think about these solutions, whether you agree with them or not. Certainly no proposal will be 100% accurate, nor will everyone agree with it. But debate about these issues and getting the public involved are keys to moving forward and finding the right solutions. Besides the policy, however, it is the science, technology, and innovation that I hope people find most fascinating. It has been a long time since such a universal and interdisciplinary problem has been presented to the scientific community.
So it is my proposal to you, the reader, that you read Clean Energy 2030, and/or other proposals like it, and comment on what you liked, and what you disagreed with. I too will be following up with another blog on my specific thoughts as well. Beyond that, if you’re just looking for some background on the subject, the proposal outlines well the major areas of scientific research that will be so important to our society in helping us solve our energy problems.