>From NYTimes.com today:

September 14, 2006
Philanthropy Google's Way: Not the Usual 

The ambitious founders of Google, the popular search engine company, 
have set up a philanthropy, giving it seed money of about $1 billion 
and a mandate to tackle poverty, disease and global warming. 

But unlike most charities, this one will be for-profit, allowing it 
to fund start-up companies, form partnerships with venture 
capitalists and even lobby Congress. It will also pay taxes.

One of its maiden projects reflects the philanthropy's nontraditional 
approach. According to people briefed on the program, the 
organization, called Google.org, plans to develop an ultra-fuel-
efficient plug-in hybrid car engine that runs on ethanol, electricity 
and gasoline. 

The philanthropy is consulting with hybrid-engine scientists and 
automakers, and has arranged for the purchase of a small fleet of 
cars with plans to convert the engines so that their gas mileage 
exceeds 100 miles per gallon. The goal of the project is to reduce 
dependence on oil while alleviating the effects of global warming.

Google.org is drawing skeptics for both its structure and its 
ambitions. It is a slingshot compared with the artillery of charities 
established by older captains of industry. Its financing pales next 
to the tens of billions that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 
will have at its disposal, especially with the coming infusion of 
some $3 billion a year from Warren E. Buffett, the founder of 
Berkshire Hathaway.

But Google's philanthropic work is coming early in the company's 
lifetime. Microsoft was 25 years old before Bill Gates set up his 
foundation, which is a tax-exempt organization and separate from 

By choosing for-profit status, Google will have to pay taxes if 
company shares are sold at a profit — or if corporate earnings are 
used — to finance Google.org. Any resulting venture that shows a 
profit will also have to pay taxes. Shareholders may not like the 
fact that the Google.org tax forms will not be made public, but kept 
private as part of the tax filings of the parent, Google Inc.

Google's founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, believe for-profit 
status will greatly increase their philanthropy's range and 
flexibility. It could, for example, form a company to sell the 
converted cars, finance that company in partnership with venture 
capitalists, and even hire a lobbyist to pressure Congress to pass 
legislation granting a tax credit to consumers who buy the cars.

The executive director whom Mr. Page and Mr. Brin have hired, Dr. 
Larry Brilliant, is every bit as iconoclastic as Google's 
philanthropic arm. Dr. Brilliant, a 61-year-old physician and public 
health expert, has studied under a Hindu guru [Neem Karoli Baba, Ram 
Dass's guru] in a monastery at the foothills of the Himalayas and 
worked as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

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