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CEO: Google Searching For Energy Solutions

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CEO: Google Searching For Energy Solutions


CEO: Google Searching For Energy Solutions

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From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris. This week Google is in the news a lot, negotiating new deals, preparing to release a new phone. Today, we're going to talk with Google's CEO about a new initiative in the non-Internet world. It's a partnership with General Electric. The goal was to build renewable energy plants, promote plug-in electric cars, and to transform the nation's electricity grid. It involves research and lobbying. The program was announced yesterday by Google's Eric Schmidt and GE's Jeff Immelt. I asked Eric Schmidt what a company that's accustomed to Ethernet cables knows about the transmission of electricity.

Mr. ERIC SCHMIDT (CEO, Google): Well, of course, we're a big consumer of this stuff, and so we've been studying it because we want to make sure that we're doing the right things. And the story's not good. The electrical grid and the power transmission have had very little investment over the last 20 or 30 years. While all of us have ended up with our digital cameras and mobile phones and all of that, the underlying infrastructure that we use has not had the kind of technology investment that it should have.

NORRIS: In this partnership between Google and GE, help me understand the role that each company will take, because GE is a company that does have fuel-fired power plants.

Mr. SCHMIDT: Well, GE of course has traditional divisions. And GE in fact builds nuclear power plants and other things like that, and natural gas plants, and so forth, which we're not involved in at all. So I'll let them talk about that. In our partnership, GE, and to Jeff Immelt's credit, he personally has led the initiative in America for businesses to become more efficient with respect to energy, and in particular the use of renewal energy. So from their perspective, this is another step forward in getting the message across. Is it good for the country? Absolutely. Is it good for General Electric and Google? Of course it is. But what's wrong with that?

NORRIS: I was wondering if there was some moment where you walked into a room, you know, filled with servers, and you had some sort of epiphany, we've got to do something about this.

Mr. SCHMIDT: I wish that were true. I think we felt that way when we had exactly one server. So from the standpoint of growing up inner-technology(ph) space and looking at how things are used, there's an awful lot of waste around us. And Google of course is contributing to that by virtue of the data centers that we have. For a while, what we tried to do was to put our data centers near dams, because dams have often excess electrical load and capacity, and servers are perfectly happy to be next to the dam, next to the power lines.

But we've run out of places to do that kind of power. And the broader issues are compelling if you assume that the two largest issues in the world are the possibility of death by nuclear bomb - you know, nuclear proliferation - and climate change over a 50 to 100-year period, in terms of the number of people you're going to affect, at least one of the two most important things in the world in the form of the things that we're doing to the planet. And so we can help.

NORRIS: Now there are, as you know, big problems on the stock market. Google has not been amused. Stock is worth a little bit more than half of what it was late last year. Are you concerned that your board or the investors might get cold feet?

Mr. SCHMIDT: Very much not. We take a very long-term view at Google. And when we discuss the kinds of things that we're discussing right now, understand that the energy prices drive the costs of Google. So if we can spend money now to save money in the future, that ultimately produces better long-term shareholder value, which is the job of the CEO and the board.

NORRIS: Eric Schmidt, you've said that by the year 2030, the U.S. should be using renewable energy for 100 percent of its power generation. Does this kind of partnership represent a step in that direction, and is that a realistic goal?

Mr. SCHMIDT: Our math says that it's more than realistic, it's conservative, because we're assuming constant use as opposed to improvements from efficiency for power. I would argue to you that here we are, we're having this great debate about what to do. The economy is slowing. Everybody's upset. Presidential candidates are talking about this or that. Why don't we take the engine of the federal government, put together a stimulus package to try to redo the energy infrastructure of the United States?

Now think about it. It would create a lot of jobs, a lot of high-paying jobs. The jobs would be in interesting places where there is a joblessness issue, rural areas, places with a lot of wind and a lot of solar and a lot of heat. And all of those would contribute to energy security. The next wars are all going to be about oil, aren't they? Why don't we just remove that from the equation and, as a byproduct, really make a dent in this climate change issue.

NORRIS: Eric Schmidt, it has been good to talk to you. Thanks so much.

Mr. SCHMIDT: Thank you very much, and thank you for having me on.

NORRIS: That was Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt.

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