SouthPark dedicated an entire episode to the smugness of hybrid car drivers and San Francisco residents in general. The episode is funny because its largely true – Silicon Valley is well known for having a left-leaning, environment-loving population that sometimes feels superior to the rest of the country. They cheered when Al Gore won an Oscar for his movie about global warming, and they are cheering again as some of the largest Internet companies in the valley are jumping very publicly on the “green” bandwagon.
Google and Yahoo in particular seem to be in a race to prove who’s the greenest.
Google is investing a lot of money in solar technology, saying that they will partially power their huge data centers with solar power. They are also installing 1.6 megawatts of solar photovoltaic panels at their headquarters in Mountain View. The panels will cover the roofs of the buildings, and Google says it is “the largest solar installation on any corporate campus in the U.S.”
There are frequent references to the benefits of being carbon neutral on the Google blog as well, and last year Google launched the “Summer of Green” website to help people travel in an environmentally friendly way.
Last week CEO Eric Schmidt said the solar energy policy is not only the right thing to do, but that it will save the company money as well. While it is certainly true that Google’s energy costs will decline, the savings will come nowhere near to offsetting the cost and maintenance of the panels themselves. Google is doing this because they think it’s right, and because they will get positive press out of it.
Not to be outdone, Yahoo has gone green in a big way, too. Earlier this year, co-founder David Filo pledged that Yahoo would go carbon neutral, basically by purchasing carbon offsets for their massive electricity usage.
Today Yahoo will go one step further, and they are bringing in actor Matt Dillon to help them. They (Yahoo and Dillon) are announcing the “Greenest City in America” challenge, and will search for the most environmentally friendly city in America. The winner gets a whole fleet of hybrid taxis (or the cash equivalent). Another fleet of taxis goes immediately to New York City.
So who’s the greenest? No idea. But more hybrid cars and solar panels are popping up around around silicon valley, giving the SouthPark guys plenty of material for a follow up episode or two.