e-fficiency: Google in perspective

An ARS Technica article titled “Google: 15,000 searches = 1 cheeseburger (hold the fries)” discusses the problems of Google’s analysis of the energy used to produce its internet search results, but otherwise praises the educational value of its Clean Energy information page.

“Early this year, a newspaper story made the rounds when, after extrapolating from some energy use estimates made by an academic, it claimed that two searches on Google would burn enough energy to heat water for a cup of tea.”

My interest in this topic dates back to reading Alvin Toffler’s The Third Wave in 1980 while working at a data center in San Francisco. I quoted a passage from that work in an article about the internet I wrote for Agorist Quarterly #1, published in 1995. Since Reagan was elected in 1980, it seems fitting to say, “There I go again.”

As Alvin Toffler predicted back in the odd-even days of 1979 gas shortages:

While gasoline and other transport costs (including the cost of mass-transit alternatives to the auto) are soaring everywhere, the price of telecommunications is shrinking spectacularly. At some point, the curves must cross.

Quoting from a study by Jack Nilles and a team sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Toffler illustrates the difference in energy usage.

“. . .Nilles calculated that the relative energy consumption advantage of telecommuting over commuting. . .is at least 29:1 when the private automobile is used. . .had even as little as 12 to 14 percent of urban commuting been replaced by telecommuting, the United States would have saved 75 million barrels of gasoline–and would have completely eliminated the need to import any gasoline from abroad.”

A recent video from Google shows you how to search more efficiently. It’s safe to say that will use less energy than buying a new SUV.

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