Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Can The Internet Save The Planet?

A major piece (art-world talk, sorry) from InformationWeek:

Solar arrays and wind farms grab all the green technology attention, but the Internet is quietly providing ways to save energy.

Last October, environmentally conscious Netheads everywhere got some excellent news. The pervasive use of broadband Internet connections and the tools and practices they enable could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by some 1 billion tons over the next decade, according to the American Consumer Institute. Widespread adoption of broadband in the United States alone would cut energy use by the equivalent of 11% of annual oil imports, the group says.

Clearly, though, when it comes to energy use, the Web is both a crusader and a culprit. Server farms and data centers burn mountains of CO2, much of it to keep machines cool. But now a new crop of companies and thinkers is trying to make the Internet "carbon neutral" and find ways to use Web-based technologies to reduce worldwide energy consumption through "demand-response" schemes that give energy consumers more direct control over their energy use.

Internet-enabled capabilities like telecommuting, e-commerce, teleconferencing, and distance learning that have been around for decades are expected to play an increasing role in cutting energy consumption--reducing air travel and the need for warehouses, trips to the mall, and even malls themselves. The American Consumer Institute projects that telecommuting alone will cut CO2 emissions by more than a half million tons over the next decade (see table, above). Overall, the Internet economy could help reduce growth in greenhouse gas output by 67% over the next several years, the study says, citing data from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab....MUCH MORE