Google chairman Eric Schmidt admitted on Monday that his company had made a mistake in funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a political group that opposes U.S. action on climate change, and that Google would not renew its membership with the group.
In an interview on NPR’s “Diane Rehm show,” Schmidt said the free-market lobbying group is spreading lies about global warming and “making the world a much worse place,” and that ALEC’s anti-climate and anti-clean energy positions are harmful to future generations.
Schmidt said Google had paid the American Legislative Exchange Council as part of a lobbying campaign on an unrelated issue. Without elaborating on his company’s relationship with the group, Schmidt asserted that facts about global warming aren’t in dispute.
“The people who oppose it are really hurting our children and grandchildren and making the world a much worse place,” Schmidt said on the show. “We should not be aligned with such people. They are just literally lying.”
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According to Bloomberg, ALEC develops model legislation for states. It conceived Florida’s controversial Stand-Your-Ground law — which led to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 — and has pushed to repeal state mandates for renewable energy use. Bloomberg says ALEC has also written model legislation calling for an interstate research council to study possible beneficial effects of climate change and to examine how regulations capping carbon may hurt the economy.
“It is unfortunate to learn Google has ended its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council as a result of public pressure from left-leaning individuals and organizations who intentionally confuse free market policy perspectives for climate change denial,” ALEC CEO Lisa Nelson said in a statement. “At our recent Annual Meeting in Dallas, we were pleased to host a roundtable conversation between a variety of companies — including Google — regarding renewable energy deployment and climate change. The conversations held in Dallas were intended to build understanding and pioneer future policy approaches where organizations could find common ground on issues of climate change, energy generation and government mandates. And, I personally intend to continue this work.”
The fact that Google was affiliated with the group has seemed incongruous to many, considering its industry-leading investments in clean energy. The company has invested more than $1 billion into wind and solar projects that in total generate more than 2 gigawatts of power, and aims to eventually power its data centers with 100 percent renewable energy. With purchased offsets, Google claims its carbon footprint is zero.
Google and other ALEC members are under mounting pressure from organizations such as Common Cause to follow Microsoft’s lead and distance themselves from ALEC, saying it’s important for these companies to “walk their talk” when it comes to making climate-action commitments.