Google plans to corner the wind energy market in New Jersey.
It's a first-of-its kind venture that could cost Google and its partners $1.3 billion, but one Google believes fits its core mission: You can make money without doing evil.
It's all well and good until you look at the fine print. If the project goes as planned, Google wins a handsome profit -- 12.6 percent -- paid by you, the New Jersey power user. If the project falls apart after it gets approval, for reasons beyond its control, Google gets its money back -- paid by you, the New Jersey power user.
That is the world, critics say, as Google sees it. All profit, no downside. There is only up for one of the world's largest multinational corporations, with $50 billion in the bank, a business that started 15 years ago by providing consumers with a better way to search the Web.
It's an innovation that has brought the information age to the fingertips of everyone with access to a computer, making workers and consumers so efficient that they should have time for the true joys in life -- the options of which they can find through Google's search engine.
Yet as the energy project shows, Google's mission, even one fueled by not doing evil, doesn't come free. The company revolutionized advertising with a search engine that allows businesses to better reach their targets, but public health advocates worry it leaves some consumers vulnerable. Its expansion has sparked innovation and added jobs, but it has aggressively used taxpayer subsidies to pay for it.
READ MORE: Wind power still tied up in NJ politics
The consequences, both intended and otherwise, can be stark. The company is testing a driverless car, which would reduce the hazards of driving. Consumers no doubt would view such an advancement with great anticipation, a true marvel, the next step toward flying cars -- unless they happen to drive a taxi for a living.
"Google is the master of telling one half of the story," said Scott Cleland, president of Precursor, a Washington-based consulting firm, and a frequent Google critic. "They tell you the asset, they ignore the liability. They tell you the benefit, they ignore the cost."
The world through the eyes of Google is a world in which you can find the top-rated coffee, hop in your driverless car to pick it up and email your friend through your smartphone, or better yet, your eyeglasses, along the way.
Founded in 1998 by then-Stanford University computer-science students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google has become a cultural icon, a rare company whose very name is a verb.
In this summer's movie "The Internship," two middle-aged watch salesmen lose their jobs because, these days, even seniors find out the time by checking their mobile phones.
They land coveted internships at Google and step into the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. It is a far cry from the dingy offices and retail stores they are accustomed to, offering a volleyball court, space-agey nap pods and all the free coffee and food they can consume.
The movie also features hyper-competitive college students from a generation for whom working at Google represents just about their only chance to make good on the American Dream. (The movie at a recent showing at the Hazlet Multiplex was preceded by an advertisement for Google Chrome, a Web browser that competes with
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