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Yesterday Google announced a new renewable-energy initiative. While the press release is a little unclear about how it will play out, the initiative will pour tens of millions of dollars into developing cheap, clean energy next year. It’s not just philanthropy. In the coming years, the company also hopes to spend hundreds of millions on clean-energy investments that will make a lot of money.

The goal is to drive down the cost of renewable energy, making it less expensive than even coal, the cheapest source of electricity. A number of other companies have also been working on this.

In a deft public-relations maneuver, Google’s huge, energy-hungry data centers have been transformed from an environmental liability into a basis for making the company an environmental leader. Here’s a bit from the press release:

“We have gained expertise in designing and building large-scale, energy-intensive facilities by building efficient data centers,” said Larry Page, Google Co-founder and President of Products. “We want to apply the same creativity and innovation to the challenge of generating renewable electricity at globally significant scale, and produce it cheaper than from coal.”

Brilliant. I’m pretty sure Brin and Page zipping around in their new private Boeing 757 and their legendary Boeing 767 “party jet” also makes them environmental heroes, although I haven’t quite figured out how yet.

Although perhaps in a different class, another leading environmentally Janus-faced company is BP, whose corroding pipelines flooded Prudhoe Bay in Alaska with 200,000 gallons of crude oil in 2006. This year the company announced $500 million in funding for a clean-energy initiative.

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Tagged: Energy, energy, Google, coal, BP

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