Planet Gore

Green Google?

As one might expect from icons of the San Francisco Bay area tech culture, Google executives prattle on endlessly about the dangers of global warming. Positioning itself as the environmental conscience of corporate America, the company has hired Al Gore as a senior management consultant, and on Tuesday announced a megabucks initiative to “develop electricity from renewable energy sources that will be cheaper than electricity produced from coal.”

Perhaps it’s Google’s guilty conscience.

While the company has made a lot of green for its Green founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, it is also guzzling enormous amounts of energy reports the New York Times in an article headlined “Taming the Guzzlers That Power the World Wide Web.”

“Behind every Google search . . . is a data center crammed with machines called servers and, behind them, a power plant,” reporter Matthew Wald disclosed November 7. “And similar to the way computer-processing speed doubles every 18 to 24 months, energy consumption by the data centers climbs, too. It doubled between 2001 and 2006 and. . . will do so again by 2011 (according to the EPA).”

Google may know new economy tech, but its foray down the old rathole of alternative energy sounds decidedly like an old, government-subsidized boondoggle.

Google wants to develop wind and solar energy, and it is planning to put one of its energy-guzzling server farms in the farm country of Iowa, allegedly a good location for windmills. But, as our Sterling Burnett reports nearby, utilities will only invest in expensive transmission line infrastructure for unreliable windmills if reliable coal plants are part of the mix.

With server farms electricity demand at 1.5 percent of the nation’s electricity and rising, a better investment than Google might be coal.

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