Earlier this week, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin pledged to spend “hundreds of millions”, in the long run, on renewable energy research and projects in an initiative called RE<C (renewable energy cheaper than coal) (nerds).
The project’s eventual aim is to build one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal. This is enough to power “a city the size of San Francisco”. (Though not, it seems, the actual city of San Francisco. Perhaps a city the size of San Francisco in a poorer country without all the energy-hogging fat Westerners in it.)
Anyhoo, a laudable aim, for sure, even if some cynical media types have pointed out Google’s interest is not entirely philanthropic, given its reliance on vast datacentres chock full of electricity-sucking servers.
By contrast, former PM Howard, even in über-generous election fire-sale mode, could only manage $75 million for renewables. And commie Big Kev’s $500 million might only equal Google’s investments. Just for comparison, Google earned US$10.6 billion in 2006 (around $12 billion Oz); the Australian government ‘earned’ $232 billion in 2006-07.
A back-of-the-envelope calculation puts Google spending about 20 times more, as a proportion of revenue, than the Australian federal government on renewable energy. That’s taking into account the generous pledges of the Labor federal government that just got elected on its green credentials.
Seems like if there’s to be any real action on global warming, it’s going to come from the people and the private sector – not wishy washy politicos . . . of any flavour.