Just when no one thought Google could get any busier (after launching its attack on the mobile phone industry earlier this week) the company has applied for the authority to buy and sell wholesale electricity. In a New York Times interview yesterday, Google's "green energy czar" Bill Weihl explains the move as a smart business strategy with green intentions. The massive amounts of energy required to run Google's servers create incentive for Google to invest in off-grid energy sources, which Weihl hopes will be environmentally friendly: "We'd be delighted if some of this stuff actually made money, obviously; it is not our goal to not make money. All else being equal, we'd like to make as much money as we can, but the principal goal is to have a big impact for good."
Many observers, however, suspect that Google's
extend beyond its own energy needs and environmental conscience. Some
have gone so far as to suggest that this move may be an attack on yet
another region of the company's increasingly fortified Risk board.
- You Seriously Expect Us to Believe You're Not Planning to Conquer the Energy Market? asks John Paczkowski at All Things Digital. "Google has a long and storied history of insisting it has no plans whatsoever to do something that it ultimately ends up doing," Paczkowski cautions. After chatting with Google's spokesperson, he dryly concludes that all he can do is "take the company at its word then and assume, for the moment anyway, that 'this does not signal our intent to operate as a retail provider of electricity' is not simply another variation on 'we're not doing a mobile phone,' 'we don't think it's a competitor to Microsoft Office,' 'we do not intend to offer a person-to-person, stored-value payments system' and, of course, "we have no plans for an IPO.'"
- Google for Obama's Next Secretary of Energy! roots Inventor Spot's Ron Callari. "Google is staying true to itself," Callari observes--"that is, doing whatever it bloody well likes." In all seriousness, though, "Google may just be the energy stimulus this country needs to alternate fuels. After all, their brain trust probably has more big thinkers for them than our own American
- Just Another Step in Google's Quest for World Domination? wonders The Atlantic's Daniel Indiviglio. Probably not: "What Google is likely doing here is bracing for the inevitable increase in energy prices associated with the depletion of fossil fuels. It would likely prefer to shape its energy destiny by relying on cheaper, renewable energy sources in the years to come. While this has pleasant environmental implications, there's little doubt that Google has economic reasons for this endeavor as well."
- Google's More Interested in Saving the World Than Dominating It, argues Chris Morrison at BNet. "Most new endeavors Google launches are immediately over-examined for signs that the company might be angling to become dominant in another industry--despite its failure so far to build a second business anywhere near as profitable as search advertising," Morrison explains. But if we toss out that suspicion, we'd see that "Google is perhaps better positioned than almost any other company not directly involved in the energy industry to innovate and figure out a set of best practices, because of its previous interest and investments in renewables through its philanthropic Google.org arm, which is trying to drive the cost of renewables lower than coal."