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By Samuel R. Avro on Jan 15, 2009 with no responses

Google; Not So Environmentally Evil After All

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A recent report placing Google in a bad light, which spread across the web like wildfire, is now being recanted after the Harvard University physicist who the comments were attributed to says that he was misinterpreted.

“Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research,” ran the opening paragraph in the Sunday Times of London.

However, the author of the research, Alex Wissner-Gross, now says that he never singled out Google in his study on the environmental impact of computing.

“For some reason, in their story on the study, the Times had an ax to grind with Google,” Wissner-Gross told TechNewsWorld. “Our work has nothing to do with Google. Our focus was exclusively on the Web overall, and we found that it takes on average about 20 milligrams of CO2 per second to visit a Web site.”

Wissner-Gross also said that he had no clue where the kettle analogy came from.

Google was forced to respond after the story was picked up by many news outlets across the globe. The world’s leading search engine staunchly defended it’s environmental record in a post on the company blog.

“In terms of greenhouse gases, one Google search is equivalent to about 0.2 grams of CO2. The current EU standard for tailpipe emissions calls for 140 grams of CO2 per kilometer driven, but most cars don’t reach that level yet. Thus, the average car driven for one kilometer (0.6 miles for those in the U.S.) produces as many greenhouse gases as a thousand Google searches,” the Mountain View, California, based company retorted to the notion that they were ruining the environment.

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

The company also contends that speeding up the search process, which their mammoth data centers across the world achieve, actually lessens the impact on the environment.

To be sure, Wissner-Gross still backs his claims that “Google operates huge data centers around the world that consume a great deal of power,” but that his report had nothing to do with Google specifically.

“I don’t think anybody would disagree with those statements,” he said. “Everything online has a definite environmental impact. I think everybody can agree on that, including Google.”

Wissner-Gross, manages the Web site CO2stats.com which assists websites in becoming carbon neutral.