federal system of research and development tax credits is highly inconsistent. They exist for a year or two and then need to be reauthorized, which sometimes happens and sometimes does not. While Google supports extending the renewable energy production tax credits, it also is asking the question, “Is a tax code the right way to be incentivizing renewable energy in this country?” Reicher said. Other countries take different approaches. For example, many European countries work through fees and tariffs. “We are asking ourselves whether there is another way to get at this.” Another policy innovation would be to merge efficiency standards and renewable energy goals into a national renewable electricity standard.
An important need is to link federal support of research and development with private sector activities. Today the private sector investment in renewables is substantial, and results can be achieved more quickly and with less duplication if public and private sector investments are integrated. “To be very honest with you, I don’t think Silicon Valley knows how to talk to Washington, D.C., and vice versa, very well.” Few venture capital firms have spent time learning about the federal research and development system to understand the potential for collaboration. Also, Wall Street needs to understand the federal research and development system “because that’s where the big long-term equity is … to get the big, big projects built once they come out of the pilot-scale test.”
Finally, a cap on carbon emissions is important, said Reicher, but it is not enough. More direct and immediate policy options are essential. Once legislation is adopted and regulations are written to implement the legislation, years can pass. “If the Clean Air Act Amendments are any indication, we could be looking at a decade, and we don’t have a decade to wait in terms of the climate crisis.”
The other major initiative going on at Google is known as RechargeIt, which focuses on accelerating the commercialization of hybrid electric vehicles. A small fleet of after-market Priuses and Ford Escapes are being driven by Google employees, with data from their use of the vehicles being made available on a publicly accessible website. One of the largest solar photovoltaic systems in the United States, covering a large parking structure and many roofs of the company, supplies electricity for the vehicles. The vehicles are getting 70 miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent. That may not be as much as the 100 miles per gallon that people who have their own particular plug-in vehicle are able to get our of their vehicles, Reicher said. “But it’s still significantly more than the 40 or 50 miles per gallon that the average Prius is getting today.”
Many companies are interested in plug-in vehicle technology, Reicher said. When Google expressed an interest in investing in such technologies, it received almost 400 proposals from companies for equity investments. Google also is