Speaking to Urs Hölzle, Google’s SVP of Operations, Chu told a room full of Googlers that although he was largely optimistic about America’s green future, he was frustrated by how much the US had fallen behind and how “we have taken our technological leadership for granted.”
Several times throughout the session, Chu brought up the example of China, a country that has been uber aggressive in funding green initiatives. He rattled off numerous examples of their unbridled ambition, including China’s plan to erect 25 nuclear power plants and the installation of “the highest voltage lines in the world to port renewable energy — they can now port electricity 1900 kilometers, at a 6% loss.”
By comparison, Chu says, America invented many of the world’s green technologies, but has dramatically stumbled behind, as rival countries have caught up, and in some instances, surpassed our efforts. He brought up the case of nuclear reactors, power electronics and solar cells (which were initially invented by Bell Labs, but the US now only has a 6% market share).
Despite the current bleakness, Chu says he has seen a few rays of hope. In the abstract form, he is comforted by the entrepreneurial spirit in green tech. Speaking more specifically, he’s encouraged by the glimmers of progress he sees in the troubled auto industry. Chu says the industry didn’t “just” have a near death experience, “it was a death experience,” but recently Ford passed Toyota’s rating in initial owner defects and (citing a recent NY times article) has also impressed consumers by apparently building a better product.
“In order to compete you don’t go to Congress and ask for better shelter, you make better stuff,” he said.
Towards the end of his Q&A, Hölzle also asked Chu if he thought Google was doing enough in the arena of green tech.
Chu essentially said yes, applauding Google for its energy initiatives and approaching it with a pragmatic, capitalistic mindset. Although he doesn’t disparage altruism, he says real, sustainable transformation will come from solutions that are also appealing for selfish reasons. “I keep on telling my folks, or anyone that will listen… that saving energy is something you shouldn’t do because it’s a good and right thing…You save energy because you’re going to save money…You can get all the population [with], ‘do this because its good for you.’”
After the fireside chat, Chu was swiftly whisked away to meet with the primary energy leads at Google (in operations, investments, engineering, etc.) for a few closed-door meetings.
As United States Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu is charged with helping implement President Obama’s ambitious agenda to invest in clean energy, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, address the global climate crisis, and create millions of new jobs. Dr. Chu is a distinguished scientist and co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics (1997). He has devoted his recent scientific career to the search for new solutions to our energy challenges and stopping global climate change - a mission...
Google provides search and advertising services, which together aim to organize and monetize the world’s information. In addition to its dominant search engine, it offers a plethora of online tools and platforms including: Gmail, Maps, YouTube, and Google+, the company’s extension into the social space. Most of its Web-based products are free, funded by Google’s highly integrated online advertising platforms AdWords and AdSense. Google promotes the idea that advertising should be highly targeted and relevant to users thus providing...