RENEWABLES aren’t enough

The title of this blog was the headline for another Margaret Wente column that pushed us to write a qualifying commentary.  The key sentence in her column that triggered our doubt was:

“. . . today’s renewable energy technologies won’t save us from climate change – and we’re wasting our time trying.  . . . That’s the conclusion Google has reached”.  (Emphasis added)

Wente’s column noted that Google withdrew from a research project “Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal.” (RE<C).  (That was in November, 2011.) Very recently the Google engineers who worked on this project explained:

“Incremental improvements to existing [renewable] technologies aren’t enough; we need something truly disruptive to reverse climate change,”

In 2011 there were concerns about the potential of renewable energy.  The political climate, both in the US and abroad, was unpromising.  Given these negatives, it is not surprising that Google discontinued the project.

Google decided research and development funds would be better applied to creating new technologies that would improve the way electricity grids dispatched and transmitted generated power.

But Google did not conclude “we’re wasting our time trying”.  Google continued to invest substantial sums in renewable technology.

In November 23, 2011, the Techcrunch Website commented on Google’s termination of the research and concluded:

“Sadly, it seems that some $850 million later, Google doesn’t think green tech is a good business after all.”

This comment was wrong, and Google later insisted that Techcrunch set the record straight. So Techcrunch quoted a Google spokesperson as saying: “we remain committed to the renewable energy sector and we plan to continue investing to add to our over $820 million in energy project investments.”

The Website also removed the offending comment by striking through the words – which remained visible so readers could identify the error.

Perhaps Ms Wente and the Globe will do the same.

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