Surprise, surprise to find the Vancouver Sun newspaper of all folks running an article that the Internet is killing the planet.
It really isn’t the stretch that some of you may think it is. Say you do a Google search. Your query kicks into action about 1,000 servers at various Google data centers. Those computers scan billions of web pages already in Google’s archives on your behalf and bring back a result (usually 1.8+ million other links you could access). When you take one billion daily Google searches, together with some 60 million Facebook status updates each day, and pile on 50 million daily tweets plus 250 billion emails per day, you’re using a whole bunch of electricity, and not just at your end of the computer.
The bulk of all this energy being used is from a fast-growing network of huge “server farms” or data centers that are the backbone of the Internet. These are the computers that make the Internet what it is, routing traffic and storing all of that ever-expanding globs of data. The data centers are hi-tech, hi-security facilities, some the size of five Wal-Marts, packed from floor to ceiling with tens of thousands of computers. Not only do all those computers have an insatiable appetite for energy, but they also require hi-capacity cooling equipment to prevent overheating.
For example, as the article notes — Apple’s 46,000-square-metre iDataCenter is about to open in North Carolina (which worked very hard to recruit them and the jobs it brings to their cheap electric state) will use an estimated 100 megawatts of power — as much as about 100,000 homes. Ah, but there is more: Google has a 44,000-square-metre data center already in the state that is expected to consume an estimated 60 to 100 MW. Facebook has a 28,000-square-metre facility under construction there that will use another 40 MW.
To put it another way, if the Internet was a country, it would be the planet’s fifth-biggest consumer of power, ahead of India and Germany, and that need is expected to nearly double by 2020. The Internet now consumes two to three per cent of the world’s electricity.
Now here is the kicker – all of those North Carolina data centers are powered by electricity generated from cheap and highly polluting coal power. Even Greenpeace likes to call the three facilities “North Carolina’s dirty data triangle.”
So after all the lectures from paper atheists on how bad the environmental impact is from print Yellow Pages directories, we need to use coal, one of the most polluting of all fossil fuels and the world’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions to achieve the nirvana of a more efficient and greener world we are supposed to be getting from the advent of the Internet.
I hope the workers are driving to these data centers in a Chevy Volt. Then we’d have some polar bears really upset as their Greenland glaciers
One final thought – if Al Gore invented the Internet, how come he never blames himself in his rants about what we are doing to the environment??
I’m happy to see that Al Gore has finally found some real meaning in his life as the new poster boy for the environmental movement. It had to be a crushing personal blow to know he lost the election for President to George Bush (yes, Al you did lose, no matter how many times they count the votes). To then bounce back to focus on issues that are arguably more important is wonderful, but somehow I still smell something that’s not right in this whole discussion.
So it was not really surprising to receive the following info from a now disappointed very eco-oriented buddy. It is a comparison between two homes:
House #1: In one month this fine residence consumes more energy than the average American household does in a year. It is a 20 room mansion (not including the 8 bathrooms) heated by natural gas as well as a pool, pool house, and a separate guest house, all heated by gas. The average bill for electricity and natural gas runs over $2400. In natural gas alone, this property consumes more than 20 times the national average for an American home. This house is not situated in the colder areas up North or in the Midwestern‘s snow belt area. It’s in the South.
House # 2: This home was also designed by an architecture professor at a leading national university. This house incorporates every “green” feature current home construction can provide. The house is still a good sized one — 4,000 square feet with 4 bedrooms. I sits on a high prairie in the American southwest. A central closet in the house holds geothermal heat-pumps drawing ground water through pipes sunk 300 feet into the ground. The water (usually 67 degrees F.) heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer. The system uses no fossil fuels (e.g. oil or natural gas) and it consumes one-quarter of the electricity required for a conventional heating/cooling system. Rainwater from the roof is collected and funneled into a 25,000 gallon underground cistern. Wastewater from shwes, sinks and toilets goes into underground purifying tanks and then into the cistern. The collected water then irrigates the land surrounding the house. Surrounding flowers and shrubs native to the area enable the property to blend into the surrounding rural landscape.
Want to guess who owns which houses?
HOUSE #1 is outside of Nashville, Tennessee; it is the abode of the environmental evangelist himself — Al Gore.
HOUSE #2 is on a ranch near Crawford, Texas; it is the residence of the President of the United States — George W. Bush, the man whom many insist has done nothing to further environmental efforts.
As the old saying goes – “Do as I say, not as I do.”
That truly is the inconvenient truth in this case.