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Google: Making green by being green

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Google's Earth Day logoThe thing about business is this: the goal is to make money. In fact, if a corporation does not act in its own best financial interest, it's legally liable to shareholders. That's a fact that often gets overlooked in the environmental community, where we seem to believe that companies should switch to sustainable practices out of the goodness of their hearts, regardless of how much it will cost them. "Please," we think, "they're a multi-billion dollar company. They can afford to make a change." Rest assured, any time you see a corporation go green it means that those in charge believe they can increase profits with a green initiative.

Which isn't to say that their heart isn't in it. Case in point: Google. They've just announced a program to develop renewable power resources to the point that they're cheaper than coal:

The initial goal will be to produce 1 gigawatt of renewable energy -- enough to power a city the size of San Francisco -- more cheaply than coal-generated energy within five years, Google energy czar Bill Weihl said.

The action is spurred in part by the amount of energy the company requires to run, and the lack of clean energy to run it on. Google plans to hire 20 or 30 engineers, and Google.org (the company's philanthropic venture) will invest in renewable energy. The company's investors seem a little nervous -- after all, Google makes its money on search and advertising, not by being environmentally responsible. I'm pretty sure there's a master plan there at Google HQ, though. I wouldn't worry too much if I were them.