Google Is Not Evil  

Posted by Big Gav

Google has made quite a splash today with their announcements that their solar roof panels have been turned on along with a slew of funding announcements for plugins, electric vehicles and V2G technology. All sounds pretty non-evil to me.

Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google Inc. said Monday it awarded $1 million in grants and announced plans for a $10 million request for proposals to fund development, adoption and commercialization of plug-ins, fully electric cars and related vehicle-to-grid technology.

Mountain View-based Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) also said it switched on the solar panel installation at its headquarters, which will help the company reduce its environmental footprint and power its plug-ins with clean solar electricity.

At 1.6 megawatts -- and with an electricity output capable of powering approximately 1,000 average California homes -- Google said its project is the largest solar installation to date on any corporate campus in the United States and one of the largest on any corporate site in the world.

Google.org gave $200,000 to the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution to support a spring 2008 conference on federal policy to promote plug-ins; $200,000 to Palo Alto-based California Cars Initiative to support its work educating the public about plug-ins; $200,000 to Palo Alto-based Electrical Power Research Institute to support its plug-in research and development program; $100,000 to El Segundo-based Plug-In America to raise public awareness and advocate for plug-in transportation; $200,000 to Old Snowmass, Colo.-based Rocky Mountain Institute to launch the design of a practical plug-in hybrid electric vehicle; and $150,000 to Willett Kempton, University of Delaware for megawatt scale vehicle-to-grid research and implementation planning.

Google.org also said that later this summer it will request proposals focused on investment opportunities in companies and projects accelerating the commercialization of alternative transportation that reduces vehicle fossil fuel use and climate emissions.

In typical Google fashion they've got a site devoted to the solar panel project, with a time based graph showing how much energy has been generated by the panels over the past day and week.
In October 2006, Google announced a commitment to solar energy production and launched the largest solar panel installation to date on a corporate campus in the United States. Google has installed over 90% of the 9,212 solar panels that comprise the 1,600 kilowatt project. Panels cover the rooftops of eight buildings and two newly constructed solar carports at the Googleplex (check out this SketchUp fly-over video).

This installation is projected to produce enough electricity for approximately 1,000 California homes or 30% of Google's peak electricity demand in our solar powered buildings at our Mountain View, CA headquarters.

We built this page to monitor and share the day to day production of clean, renewable energy from our very own rooftops. Keep checking in to see how we're doing. We think the future looks bright!



Their hybrid car initiatives also have a site called RechargeIT.org.
RechargeIT is a Google.org initiative that aims to reduce CO2 emissions, cut oil use and stabilize the electrical grid by accelerating the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and vehicle-to-grid technology.

By demonstrating the technology using our own fleet and supporting others through grants and investments, together we will drive toward a plug-in revolution. See for yourself how our plug-in hybrids are performing.

Our Immediate Goals

Recharge a Car: Google.org is working with A123 Systems and Hymotion to convert our growing fleet of hybrid cars into plug-in hybrids and to collect performance data to demonstrate their efficiency.

Recharge the Grid: We are demonstrating vehicle-to-grid technology and funding research to make this smart energy idea a reality.

Recharge the Planet: By adopting cleaner sources of energy, such as Google's 1.6 MW solar installation that charges our own fleet, we will help mitigate global warming by reducing the use of fossil fuels.


Did you know... Seven of the world's car-makers are now looking at plug-in hybrids.

Dave Roberts at Grist is also enthusiastic about the V2G funding announcement. It will be interesting to see if Google is as successful in the electranet market as it has been in the internet one...
Sweet mama! Google.org is going to give vehicle-to-grid technology a much-needed boost, to the tune of $10 million.

The company is going to modify six cars, a mix of Toyota Priuses and Ford Escape hybrids, with batteries that can draw juice from the grid and feed juice back in. The promise of this technology is that if it spreads, it will enable distributed electricity storage that can smooth spikes in electricity demand without expensive new generation plants. That means less new dirty coal. Every energy wonk I know has high hopes around V2G.

And Google's innovative philanthropy has just the combination of smarts, cultural cachet, and brass balls to get things rolling.

The batteries they're using are from A123 Systems, the hot-shit name in next-gen lithium ion hybrid batteries right now, the same outfit that's supplying the batteries for the Tesla roadster.

I have a feeling V2G is going to be the spark that starts a cascade of inventions around energy storage, energy efficiency, and smart grids. This could be the moment historians mark as the starting gun. Larry Brilliant is living up to his name again.

Here's a short video about the project ...

The Sustainable Industries Journal has an article on the new solar centre for Silicon Valley.
The Bay Area has long been home to cutting-edge computer technology; now the area is fast becoming a hub for solar energy technology. Giving a boost to the region’s solar power entrepreneurs, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group this month launched the Solar Center for Excellence.

The San Jose, Calif-based group established the solar research and education center to help make solar technology more competitive with the Bay Area’s high tech, biotech and life sciences industries. The center plans to focus on creating standards of performance and installation, which could reduce the cost of solar power installation. In addition, the center expects to create training programs for solar-industry workers and to provide new ways of financing solar power.

As part of the California Solar Initiative, the California Public Utilities Commission pledged $2.8 billion in January 2006 towards increasing the generation of solar power in the state [see “California serves up solar incentives,” SI, February 2006]. By examining the obstacles of solar power installation, the center intends to help simplify the permitting and rebate processes included in the California Solar Initiative and other government programs.

Jim at The Energy Blog has a post on an interesting biofuel alternative - "Biofuels from Sorghum does not Compromise Food Production, Saves Water" - I wonder if it also improves soil quality...
A project to produce ethanol from sweet sorghum, is described in the biofuel review. The project being implemented jointly by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and Rusni Distilleries, has achieved a significant milestone with the first batch of ethanol flowing out of the distillery at Mohammed Shapur village in Andhra Pradesh, India.

Through its ethanol from sweet sorghum project, ICRISAT has been promoting the idea of generating bio-fuel without compromising on food production.
“Our emphasis with the sweet sorghum project is that ethanol is produced from the sweet juice available in the stalk of the crop plant, unlike in the use of grains in other plants. The farmers will continue to use the sorghum grain, while they can earn an additional income from selling the juice,” said Dr Belum VS Reddy, ICRISAT's Principal Sorghum Breeder.

Sweet sorghum has other benefits over sugarcane and corn as feedstock for ethanol production. It requires only one half of the water required to grow maize and around one eighth of the water required to grow sugarcane; and has the least cost of cultivation which is around one fifth of the cost for growing sugarcane.

Jamais at Open The Future has an interesting post on "Long Term Deposits" - making small insurance payments against the possibility of widespread disaster. I guess this is the optimist's version of apocaphilia :-)
Failure happens. Strategic plans that don't take into account the possibility of failure -- and propose pathways to adaptation or recovery -- are at best irresponsible, at worst immoral. The war in Iraq offers an obvious example, but the potential for failure in our attempts to confront global warming* may prove to be an even greater crisis. This is why I'm so adamant about the need to study the potential for geoengineering: we need to have a backup plan. And if that fails to head off global disaster, or (if done without sufficient study and preparation) exacerbates problems further, we need a last-ditch plan for recovery.

What does it mean to prepare for recovery? I've described it before: a civilization backup, holding a full record of who we are as a civilization, built in a way to facilitate recovery after a global disaster. This is something of an ambitious plan, however, and is not likely to even be considered for decades. In the meantime, a smaller-scale project would be entirely feasible -- and it turns out that such a smaller-scale backup appears to now be underway: the Book & Seed Vault.
So we pose this question: Are we as a civilization to be knocked back to a hunter-gather stage, or is there a way we can leave a legacy that provides for the future of mankind? [...] The Book and Seed Vault, Inc. has been formed for this purpose— gather and safely maintain long term storage of our civilization’s knowledge, plant seeds and medicinal seeds.

Much like the seed storage facility in Norway, the Book & Seed Vault would maintain supplies of seeds for key edible and medicinal plants; unlike the Norwegian effort, the Vault would also include an assortment of books, mixing academic, instructional (including a full selection of MAKE magazine, I hope!), and cultural. Long-term plans include underground concrete bunkers dotting the continent, but for now, the initial vault will be in rural Oregon.

It's clear that the Book & Seed Vault is a very new organization, with great ambitions but limited resources. They just started up in the last few months, and their expertise seems a bit uneven -- lots of detailed info about preserving books, but more general plans for handling the seeds. I suspect that they'll drop the plans to archive CDs and DVDs in short order, when they look at the infrastructure involved for handling electronic media.

In fact, the Book & Seed Vault may prove to function better as a model and instructions than as an actual vault. We'd need more than one site for any kind of disaster recovery system to be truly useful; we have to assume that many of the eventual locations will be unavailable, so the more the better. The right scale for something like this is probably the "community" -- a bit bigger than your neighborhood, but smaller than a city.

Think of it as open-source disaster prep -- a site and set of resources offering detailed instructions (which can be updated by the users, of course) showing you how to build a recovery vault for your community. What are the physical specs for the facility? Which seeds are appropriate for your regional climate? What are the key instruction manuals and guidebooks to include? How best to store and protect the vault's contents? I could see this done as a wiki and mailing list, probably with some YouTube videos demonstrating various techniques for proper seed and book storage. ...

Technology Review has a folow up to its earlier articles on "Planning for a climate changed world", with a look at how to save Holland from rising sea levels.
The lowest point in western Europe is 6.74 meters below sea level and falling. It lies in a boggy area of decomposing peat outside the cheese mecca of Gouda, the Netherlands, and is identified by a seven-meter marker plunked into a brackish pool at the entrance to the Van Vliet truck dealership. (The dealership's owner erected the marker, taking a little license with the facts; the actual low spot is a few hundred meters away.) The Fodor's travel guide does not mention this corner of ­Holland, but it's a focal point for the question of how to plan for the risks and realities of climate change.

That's because the town of Gouda is considering whether to erect 4,000 houses--some of which might float--just two kilometers from this continental nadir. Subdivisions may rise on portions of the sparsely developed farmland near the truck dealership, a 50-square-kilometer area surrounded by dikes and a canal. Such reclaimed lowlands are called polders; they're kept dry by pump houses that suck away rainwater and ground­water seepage. The Dutch have always built on polders, but doing so now, as flood risks rise across the country, will require new approaches that could get an early test in this particularly low region, called the southwest polder or Zuidplaspolder. "It sounds, sometimes, somewhat illogical," concedes Marco van Steekelenburg, an urban planner with the regional province of South Holland, who took me to the site. "But that is what we have to investigate: how illogical it is. We have been given a challenge: can we find solutions which are climate-proof?"

The country faces ominous trends as global temperatures rise. Already, 55 percent of the Netherlands' land area is below sea level, protected by a vast system of seawalls, storm-surge barriers, and thousands of dikes that crisscross the countryside. Dutch scientists say sea levels in the region will rise between 25 and 85 centimeters (10 and 33 inches) this century. In addition, weather worldwide is expected to become more extreme, on average. This means a higher likelihood of flooding along the Rhine and other rivers, and a greater risk of droughts. All the while, Dutch land will continue to sink--at a rate of 0.2 centimeters annually in some areas--as the peat soil underlying much of it decomposes, exposed to air by Dutch drainage efforts.

Now, in an effort being watched around the world, the Dutch government and several prominent research institutions are trying to figure out how to adapt a whole country to the realities of climate change. ...



I haven't done a Ron Paul link for a while, but I like this guy's suggestion of a Paul / Kucinich alternative run for US President in "MSM notices Ron Paul's Web presence".
t's still got a bit of a look-at-the-freak-show quality, but this Washington Post story represents a bit of an acknowledgment that something is going on with Ron Paul that's worth paying attention to. It notes that on Technorati, "the most frequently searched item this week was YouTube. Then comes Ron Paul." Ahead of "Sopranos," "Paris Hilton" and iPhone. ...

The main reason, of course, is his opposition to the war. Coming from a man whose other positions, on government spending, regulation, size of government, etc., are to "the right of the right," it makes for an attractive position. One Carnegie-Mellon student, who has actually donated $50 to Paul, says, "I'm not supporting him because I think he could get the nomination. I'm supporting him because I think he can influence the national conversation about what the role of government is, how much power should government have over our lives, how much liberty we should give up for security."

Not bad reasons.

I friend of mine last week suggested that if both parties nominate a candidate early, significant bumbers of people get "buyers' remorse" and a movement grows gfor an independent or bipartisan alternative, the candidates ought to be Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, who would give voters an antiwar alternative, rather than someone like Michael Bloomberg. An intriguing notion.

Reason comes close to making a similar suggestion in "Ron Paul, for the People" - and also makes the point I occasionally wish progressives would understand - you might love big government when it does all the things you want it to do, but what happens when all that power ends up in the hands of people with views that are opposite to yours ? Also at Reason - "America on the Rack", asking "Is the torture debate robbing us of international credibility ?". Do you really need to ask ?
When I asked one former Democrat at this gathering, who told me he got excited by Paul during the first televised GOP debates, whether he was a common phenomenon, both he and another supporter (who came to Ron from the hard money side) shook their heads wonderingly as if I’d asked them something as ridiculous and obvious as if Ron Paul believes in the Constitution; it’s a constant phenomenon, they insist. The hard money guy, who likes to wear his nifty “Ron Paul Revolution” t-shirt (with the “evol” in revolution laid out to make the “love” backwards part stand out), says he’s constantly approached by interested civilians, many of them Democrats, excited and eager to know more.

All either of them had was anecdotes, not thorough data. But no one is polling Democratic voters on their thoughts on Ron Paul, so that’s all we’ve got to go on. The appeal makes sense on some level, especially when you look at the weak-kneed pasts of most of the antiwarriors leading the Dem pack and contemplate the list of issues that sum up Paul on a business card being handed out at this event.

It has the “ronpaul2008.com” address on top, and lists as Ron’s stances: “Voted against Iraq War. Voted against Patriot Act. Never voted to raise taxes. Never voted to increase government. Opposes Internet regulation. Opposes War on Drugs. Opposes Torture. Supports non-interventionist foreign policy. Supports habeas corpus.” (That’s the full list.)

Now, some Democratic intellectuals of the Jonathan Chait variety seem to think raising taxes is a primary political imperative, but I’m sure even most Democratic voters aren’t going to actually mind too much that he’s against raising taxes. So Paul has in many senses the best of the supposed appeal of Reaganite conservatism (small government, keeping the feds out of our lives), and is for many rights and against many abrogations of rights that progressives support.

And this list of stances (perhaps wisely) doesn’t mention immigration at all—where Paul’s position, outside the modal libertarian let ‘em in but don’t put ‘em on the dole line, probably appeals to more American voters than does that modal libertarian line. Thus, one wonders why Paul isn’t considered a shoe-in for victory by acclimation, as he seems to have something big to offer almost every impassioned voting constituency. And he’s even major party. (Not to mention that his noninterventionist foreign policy has something in common with the one that President Bush was elected on in 2000.)

One of the keys to why Paul should have wider appeal is that while he is certainly very libertarian, he is in many ways more federalist and constitutionalist than libertarian in a strict sense. He’s willing to leave all sorts of things to the states rather than imposing small-government solutions from the top down. He represents—or should, to most thinking voters—little in the way of a threat to their interests, insomuch as their interests don’t involve living off the federal teat or using federal power to their advantage. As Paul told me when I interviewed him for my book Radicals for Capitalism, “the freedom philosophy shouldn’t be challenging to too many people, when you emphasize that all I want to do is leave you alone.”

Progressive gadflies at the Nation such as Alexander Cockburn and John Nichols have had kind words for Paul, the former bordering on an endorsement. Paul has spoken of his affection for, and cooperation with, progressive Dem favorite Dennis Kucinich. Democratic voters need to decide, after eight years of Bush, if they can dedicate themselves mostly to stopping government from doing all the bad things they think Bush has done, from wars to Patriot Acts, or if it is more important to use government’s power to do all the good things they insist must be done.

I suspect they will ultimately fall back on the latter, and not rush into every open primary state away from their own lame pack to push Paul forward in Republican primaries.

In the voting booth, momentum often seems to overcome affection (was Kerry really particularly beloved by anyone, even his family?) and the inertia of centrism often overwhelms potentially exciting change.

And undoubtedly, culturally and intellectually, Ron Paul is coming from a very different place than most Democratic voters, and especially from most Democratic intellectuals. (At this Pasadena meeting, the most prominent literature being handed out was issues of the Birch mag New American.) See the Suicide Girls softcore hipster porn web site for a list of reasons why most American progressives, the more they learn about Paul, might want to run away. And no matter how much evil they see in Bush, it is very hard for American liberals to let go of a dream of a powerful do-everything state that will do just what they want it to do, and no more.

Ron Paul is the most energetic and consistent advocate on an issue of paramount political importance, especially to left-progressives—ending our involvement in Iraq. He’s willing to leave many controversial issues to states and localities. He wants to leave most of us alone to manage our own affairs, as either individuals or smaller polities. He’s a dedicated enemy of some of the most evil and repressive policies currently afoot in America. If America’s progressives can’t manage to give him at least two cheers, the fault lies not with their candidates, but with themselves.

Another touted third party or independent candidate is Michael Bloomberg, who is following Al Gore's example and being coy about his chances of running. He recently did a talk at Google:
Bloomberg addressed more than 1,000 Google employees on the same campus that has recently hosted official candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, John McCain, John Edwards and Bill Richardson. His on-stage questioner, Sheryl Sandberg, vice president of online sales and operations, said she would not bother asking him about the presidency, since Bloomberg had repeated his intention to enter philanthropy after leaving office. But when she asked him about a hypothetical independent candidate deciding to enter the race, Bloomberg launched into a broad critique of the Bush administration and Congress — without naming names — and a lament on the empty theatrics of the presidential debates to date.

"I think the country is in trouble," Bloomberg said, listing the war in Iraq and America's declining standing globally as two principal examples. "Our reputation has been hurt very badly in the last few years," he said. "We've had a go-it-alone mentality in a world where because of communications and transportation, you should be going exactly in the other direction." ...

In a speech later in Los Angeles, Bloomberg revisted the theme, saying partisan gridock in Washington had paralyzed government and left "our future in jeopardy." He said the nation's "wrong-headed course" could be changed if there is a commitment to shared values and solving problems without regard to party label. "It all begins with independence," he said, opening a University of Southern California conference examining ways to build consensus in a divided government. Progress, he added, "means embracing pragmatism over partisanship, ideas over ideology."

In Mountain View, Bloomberg seemed to side with President Bush when he decried "an anti-immigration policy that is a disgrace" and called for a more open migration policy. And he dismissed the notion of deporting illegal immigrants as part of immigration reform. "We need to recognize we're not going to deport 12 million people already here," he said. "Let's get serious, we don't have an army big enough to do that, it would be devastating to our economy, it would be the biggest mass deportation of people in the world."

The mayor said there had been too little discussion of health care and education on the campaign trail, and later blamed journalists for not asking hard enough questions of the candidates.

In one of his harshest comments, Bloomberg dismissed creationism — the theory that the universe was created by intelligent design — mistakenly calling it "creationalism." The remark made plain that Bloomberg has no interest in running in the Republican presidential primary, where outreach to Christian conservatives is critical. "It's scary in this country, it's probably because of our bad educational system, but the percentage of people that believe in Creationalism is really scary for a country that's going to have to compete in the world where science and medicine require a better understanding," he said.

I'm not really sure what Bloomberg's stance on our oil quest in Iraq is, but I'd like to think he realises its futility, given his efforts to try and green up New York's energy use. Meanwhile, Bush's surge is sloshing around the streets of Fallujah - and The Village Voice isn't impressed.
While the big dailies tear themselves away from the Israeli-Palestinian death dance to focus this morning on another U.S. "surge" against Iraqi rebels in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, the residents of Fallujah, west in the desert, are once again being squeezed to death.

We bombed the hell out of Fallujah in April 2004 and again that fall. The next year, we found out, thanks to Human Rights Watch, that Camp Mercury, outside the desert city, was home to our self-described "Murderous Maniacs," who routinely tortured Iraqi civilians for amusement — our soldiers called it "f*cking" them. We bombed a hospital to rubble and refused admittance to aid workers. Exactly two years ago, Fallujah was such a madhouse of destruction that Americans were fighting with Americans.

Guess what? We're doing it again to Fallujah. This war has gone on so long that the tragedies are being re-enacted in full. And the Pentagon is spinning this latest Fallujah tragedy of increased chaos and misery into yet another fairy tale of "stabilization."

If you want to measure our progress in Iraq, just keep an eye on Fallujah, where hysteria keeps repeating itself. With such a pattern, no wonder our own hospitals are overloaded with stressed-out, freaked-out, mentally ill U.S. soldiers.

Things could always be worse, and they are if you live in Fallujah. ...

Reminds me of a scene in the movie "Blood Diamond", which I saw on the weekend - as a refugee walks through a destroyed village with the sole remaining inhabitant, the guy says "it could be worse, they could have found oil here".



Links:
The Australian - It's slow going in Iraq: envoy. Still haven't handed over the oil.
Technology Review - Plastics From Sugar
Technology Review - From Leftovers to Energy
SMH - Cyclonic Winds To Batter Sydney Again. Third huge storm in 2 weeks. Hopefully there will be some good surf photos about tomorrow - it supposed to be 10 metres tonight...
Green Wombat (Business 2.0) - Big Solar: GreenVolts Signs Utility Deal
The Energy Blog - BP 2007 Statistical Review of World Energy
Grist - Washington Post v. liquid coal
GraphOilogy - In Defense of the Hubbert Linearization Method. I think the Russian graph is instructive - lets see how it develops over the coming years.
The Australian - Energy bills to rise in Queensland, Tasmania. Blaming the drought and increased materials costs.
The Australian - Niger: Rebel raid draws call for dialogue. Oil and uranium exploration in the affected region.
The Australian - Desalination plant key to $5bn water scheme. Now Melbourne decides to bottle electricity. Only Brisbane left to go.
The Australian - Cheers and jeers for BHP greenhouse policy
Public Opinion - Media Psychosis At The Australian
Bruce Sterling - Thrilling Energy Breakthrough: Vivoleum!. Full description of the "Yes Men" address to the Canadian Oil expo.
Bruce Sterling - Exxon: Who, Us? World-Wrecking Climate Criminals? We Never!
WorldChanging - Ecological Footprint 2.0
Toronto Star - Bike activists going guerrilla
Bruce Schneier - The TSA and the Sippy Cup. Also at Boing Boing. Maybe this is what they are paranoid about (if so they're going about it totally the wrong way) ?
Press Esc - US destroying Iraq with impunity
Cryptogon - The American Culture Bomb: Satire from the Onion and a Long Forgotten U.S. Army War College Essay

And to close, a Bush joke:
A lot of people have asked, "Why the big response [to Bush visiting Albania] ?" Isn't it obvious? He's a strong leader, he's spreading democracy, and in Albania, it is effectively still 2002...So to the Albanians, the president has just recently launched a highly popular war in Afghanistan. There's no Iraq, no congressional page sex scandal, no Jack Abramoff, no wire-tapping, no secret prisons, no torture, no Valerie Plame, no Abu Ghraib, no no-bid contracts, no Hurricane Katrina, no attorney firings, no contents of Karl Rove's basement freezer. Oh. I'm sorry, I may have spoken too soon. I don't know if that one's broken yet. It's going to be big. — Stephen Colbert

1 comments

Anonymous   says 7:23 AM

good post. yea, I could think of worse things to do besides put up a bunch of solar panels on the roof.

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