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Monday, February 17, 2020

Computers Contributing to Global Warming

For John, BLUFI am not surprised at the revelation about the energy costs of computerization.  Remember the 2007 Bruce Willis movie Live Free or Die Hard?  One of the clues is that the computer be hacked is using a lot of energy, standing out from the background.  And it isn't just the computer.  There is the energy needed to provide the cooling needed.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is the sub-headline:

Digital traffic will fuel the next dramatic economic expansion—but digital machines need the reliable and affordable energy that only hydrocarbons can provide.

Mark P. Mills January 24, 2020 Technology and InnovationInfrastructure and energyEconomy, finance, and budgets.

Here is the lede plus three:

Once upon a time, tech companies were upstarts, striving to change the world order.  Not anymore.  With financial potentates gathering in Davos this week for the 2020 World Economic Forum, tech giants reign in the global economy, both creating and ameliorating challenges from job destruction and wealth disparities to security, health care, and—of course—climate change.

Digital companies now “weaponize” their reputations for technological wizardry to shape our energy future.  It’s ironic, then, but no coincidence, that digital infrastructure has become the fastest-growing source of energy use.  Despite their best public relations efforts, these giants in fact meet increasing demand by using the same old hydrocarbon sources that power everything else in the economy.

Tech companies confront an inconvenient fact:  the global cloud uses more energy than is produced by all the planet’s wind and solar farms combined.  One-click shopping and streaming video, and everything else digital, rely on an ecosystem of energy-intensive hardware to mine rare-earth elements, manufacture silicon engines, and light up countless cell towers and warehouse-scale data centers.  This hardware is deeply and deliberately intertwined in global systems overwhelmingly fueled by hydrocarbons—the old-fashioned stuff that provides 85 percent of all energy, with just 3 percent coming from wind and solar.

Just ahead of the Davos meeting, Microsoft raised the bar for its fellow tech titans by announcing an initiative to help change how the world gets energy. Nearly every tech firm has “taken the pledge” to transition to using renewable energy exclusively.  They’re investing billions of dollars and deploying lobbyists to get more wind and solar projects going worldwide.  U.S. companies fund about half of Europe’s green tech, and these firms make sure to publicize these as “offsets” for domestic operations—in effect, purchased indulgences.  None of it changes the reality that data machines physically connect to conventional, local grids and pipes.

Maybe when everyone telecommutes we will find the energy savings.  In the mean time, computing is a big energy sink.

Like much we hear about, we could benefit from more information and less speculation.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

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