Go Google!

Anyone who knows me well enough can tell you that I am by no means a fan of what I like to call “the corporation.” Every day when I pick up the newspaper it seems like big business is involved in more corruption scandals and engaging in more questionable behavior. Supporters of “the corporation” tell me that these companies are acting in their best interest by focusing exclusively on their bottom line; and these people tell me that companies have no responsibility to anyone but their shareholders. Whether or not it is acceptable that big business exploits its employees, pollutes the environment and hurts communities is debatable. But when a company goes above and beyond its bottom line, it usually catches my eye. As of yesterday, I am really excited about one company in particular: GOOGLE.

Google recently announced plans to start a for-profit philanthropic company called google.org. The fact that google.org is not a non-profit like the vast majority of charitable organizations, makes it unique and potentially very powerful. Google’s mission is to tackle three of the world’s biggest problems: poverty, disease and global warming. Although most corporations give large sums of money to charity and then spend about ten times as much on a PR campaign telling people about it, Google appears incredibly legitimate. Google’s philanthropic company will have the ability to start new firms, form partnerships with entrepreneurs and even lobby congress.

So why does this so much matter to me..? because of one product that I find to be truly amazing, the electric car. Google’s founders have already given millions to California-based Tesla Motors (see previous post) who will introduce the first electric car since Detroit pulled all of them from the market and shredded them into a billion pieces. But the Google guys aren’t content with just letting one new firm develop the new means of technology that we need so desperately, and have announced development of their own electric hybrid engine. The Google Car, as it has been coined, will be a plug in hybrid vehicle that runs on both gasoline and e85 and get potentially over a hundred miles per gallon.

What I love so much about Google is that they have never ceased to amaze me with the quality and reliability of their products, whether it be their search engine, webmail, or word processing software. Whenever there is something you think is impossible, Google can do it. Think about it… remember the days of getting 10 megabytes of storage space with your Yahoo mail account? Out of nowhere, Google offered its customers 1 gigabyte (1000 megabytes) of email storage. Remember when you had to shell out hundreds of dollars for buggy and unreliable Microsoft Office software? Google offered better software for free!

Building a car engine may not be what Google has focused on in the past; but one thing I know about Google is that they have the magic to make the unthinkable happen. Google could very well give electric cars the boost they need to make it into the mainstream marketplace. Now that it is clear that Detroit refuses to believe that there is demand for hybrid vehicles (Toyota Prius sales increase about 50% per year and For F-series pickups are losing customers like crazy) California based companies like Google and Tesla Motors can step in and give us the cars that our environment and society urgently need.

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Update: September, 21, 2006...
I saw this quote from Google.org's executive director Larry Brilliant. I am once again amazed with this company. Its extremely rare for me to see a big corporate executive make comments like this. In an interview with The New York Times, Brilliant said he would like to see ventures such as the hybrid car make a profit, but wouldn’t really care if they didn’t. "We're not doing it for the profit,” he said. “And if we didn't get our capital back, so what? The emphasis is on social returns, not economic returns."