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By Samuel R. Avro on Jan 11, 2009 with no responses

Study: Google Search Assists in Ruination of Environment

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Google's headquarters located in Mountain View, California.

Conducting two Google searches can have as much of an impact on the environment as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to Harvard University physicist Alex Wissner-Gross. His research study on the impact of computing is due out soon.

“Google operates huge data centers around the world that consume a great deal of power,” Wissner-Gross was quoted as saying in today’s Sunday Times.

Environmentalists are concerned with the estimated 200 million daily internet searches conducted around the world. The electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions caused by those searches is worrying, since Google utilizes many servers to reply to just one search request.

According to the research, a typical search query generates about 7g of CO2 while boiling a kettle generates about 15g.

Google contends that they are at the forefront of green computing, and have even launched a plan last year which would help reduce America’s dependence on oil and coal.

However, some believe that they aren’t that concerned with the environment, and that they ultimately will not implement what is needed.

Google’s “primary concern is to make searches fast and that means they have a lot of extra capacity that burns energy,” said Wissner-Gross.

According to his calculations on individual use of the internet, viewing a simple web page generates about 0.02g of CO2 per second. This rises tenfold to about 0.2g of CO2 a second when viewing a website with complex images, animations or videos.

Google itself is improving its servers and installations, with $5 million in building efficiency investments that will pay for themselves in about two years. New efficiency standards for computers could cut power consumption by the equivalent of 10 to 20 coal-fired plants by 2010, Google said during the unveiling of their energy plan last year.

Servers operated by Google are located throughout the U.S., China, Europe and Japan. When a search for information is requested, it gets transmitted to all data centers but only returns the fastest answer to the searcher.

“Data centers are among the most energy-intensive facilities imaginable,” said Evan Mills, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, also quoted by The Sunday Times.

According to the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, Gartner Inc., the global information and communications technology industry accounts for approximately 2 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a figure equivalent to aviation.

“Despite the overall environmental value of IT, Gartner believes this is unsustainable,” it said in its research report.

Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, has invested $45 million in wind, solar and geothermal energy start-ups.