Under Susan Molinari, Google Has Veered Away From Green Policy

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 20 Nov 2013 10:55:00 GMT

Susan Molinari
Susan Molinari at a Google/Elle/Center for American Progress event January 19, 2013
A review of the "don't be evil" Internet giant Google's stance toward climate change and green policy finds a significant shift to the right in recent years, following the Tea Party surge election and the collapse of mandatory climate legislation in 2010.

Since 2012, Google's policy division has been run by former Republican representative Susan Molinari, a long-time corporate lobbyist. Molinari, whose personal contributions are exclusively to Republicans, has led the Google Washington DC office to host fundraisers exclusively for Republican senators, including Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), according to the Sunlight Foundation's Political Party Time database. Under Molinari's direction, Google also supports climate-denial shops such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, and the American Conservative Union.

Google's fundraiser for Sen. Inhofe in July sparked controversy and protest, and the membership in ALEC raised a new round of criticism from industry press and Google users.

Google's political support for opponents of its green agenda appears to be part of a retreat from its serious climate-policy agenda of a few years ago.

In 2007, renewable energy politico Dan Reicher joined Google as Director, Climate Change and Energy Initiatives for Google.org, the company's charitable arm.

Starting that year, Google publicly committed to carbon neutrality because "Solving climate change won’t be simple, and there won’t be a single solution that addresses the entire problem at once. We all need to act together to meet the challenge – from the largest corporations and governments to individual households."

Google pledged then:

Finally, we will campaign for public policies designed to cut emissions to the levels required to keep our climate system stable. We support energy efficiency standards that accelerate the deployment of energy-efficient technologies throughout the world, specific targets to increase renewable energy supplies on the grid, public support for research and development aimed at developing and commercializing low-carbon technologies, and mandatory emissions limits that put a price on carbon.
Google's climate policy platform initially included efficiency standards, a federal renewable portfolio standard, public funding for clean-energy research and development, and a price on greenhouse pollution.

"Meeting our goal will also require improved regulatory frameworks at the regional and national level," Google continued. "We will advocate for specific changes including a national renewable portfolio standard, increased research and development support, and regional and federal incentives for the deployment of renewable electricity."

The call for a carbon price was eliminated from Google's site at the end of 2007. The individual policy provisions were replaced with the Google Clean Energy 2030 plan in November 2008. This effort was led by Google.org's Climate and Energy Technology Manager, Dr. Jeffery Greenblatt, who left Google in 2009 to join the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Reicher, who testified repeatedly before Congress in favor of climate and clean-energy legislation on Google's behalf in 2009, left Google at the end of 2010, to join the Stanford Center for Energy Policy and Finance.

In 2011, Google.org published "The Impact of Clean Energy Innovation," which compared policy scenarios including a suite of renewable-energy policies and a $30/ton carbon tax. This research was led by Google Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl, who was hired by Facebook at the end of that year.

Also in 2011, Google's Green site was revamped, eliminating policy mentions but including a 100% renewable energy goal for the company's operations.

Then Molinari joined Google in 2012.