Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research.
While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g. “Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power,” said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon. “A Google search has a definite environmental impact.”
My antenna went up immediately. I've done some implementation research on servers precisely to discover what I could expect in the way of performance and power consumption, and the number appeared grossly inflated.
All the servers in the U.S. consumed about 1.2% of the generated electricity in 2005--about the same as for the nation's color televisions. That's a cost of about 2.7 billion a year. Approximately half of that figure is for environmental support (air conditioning). While server use is expected to increased substantially over the next few years, its not a straight line extrapolation of power consumption as new servers are considerably more efficient and require far less cooling (in some cases, data centers are doing away with climate control altogether...)
So what does that mean on a user transaction basis? There are no absolute figures because there are so many different types of servers with different configurations, running different software (which also has an effect on power consumption). Microsoft and Fujitsu came out with a white paper calculating that its volume server (that type of server represents 95% of the market at this point) performs 2.3 to 7.7 million transactions per kWh. That's about 63 transaction per joule at the low end, and 214 transactions per joule at the high-end.
Its takes 260 kilojoules to boil 100 grams of water at sea level.
So let's multiple 260,000 joules (260 kilojoules) by the lower figure. You get 16.38 million server transactions for the same energy it takes to boil 100 grams of water. A cup of tea is roughly double 100 grams, but nationally, server power consumption is matched by the climate control load, so they cancel out and you still get 16.38 million Google searches at the low end.
the lie is so outrageous, I can afford to be generous and halve that figure because the laptop making the request is consuming electricity as well. No wait, let's factor in four or five switches as well. What the hell--increase the power consumption per transaction by a factor of 10.
Still 1.638 million transactions.
A couple of days ago I pointed out that the left and its fellow travelers have long understood the value of making unreasonable statements. Make them often enough, and have them made by people with ostensible authority, and people actually start to believe them. A wonderful phenomenon--who came up with that? Oh yeah--Joseph Goebbels-->
The reality is that Google and other internet businesses that serve content are among the most efficient consumers of electricity in the context of value delivered that there has ever been on the face of the earth. If you really want to save energy--stop printing newspapers.