Doing A Google Search Impacts The Environment!

Seems you can boil water for a cup of tea with the amount of energy it takes to do two Google searches, according to a Harvard professor. Though, in response to the TimesOnline article posted yesterday, Google took time to reply stating it is many times less than that.

This may be more than a tempest in a tea cup (I know bad pun), given Google's appointment of Bill Weihl as their Green Energy Czar in February 2006 and their claims to be carbon neutral by 2008.

No doubt, the information by Harvard physicist Alex Wissner-Gross has heated things up at Google, for a number of reasons and their response may have been motivated more than by the carbon footprint they are leaving, but the suggested access to operating information of the company.

As Weihl told the Climate Group last year, "We aren't disclosing the absolute numbers of our footprint because it's closely coupled to the details of our operations, but the bulk of our emissions are from our data centre operations. Employee commuting and business travel also contribute, as do emissions associated with manufacturing of the servers that we use."

As the TimesOnline noted however,"Google is secretive about its energy consumption and carbon footprint. It also refuses to divulge the locations of its data centres. However, with more than 200m internet searches estimated globally daily, the electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions caused by computers and the internet is provoking concern."

Google has long had an almost counter culture, support the environment image. And their efforts to contribute to environmental issues can be praised, but their endless supply of widgets and services most obviously impacts on energy use and one wonders if they had foreseen this type of publicity arriving eventually. After all, as any brand management conscious person can tell you, these articles do not go away - even storing them takes up energy.

But Google is not the only ones at fault, as Wissner-Gross told TimesOnline in a (energy consuming) companion article "every website owner contributes as well. As websites have real-world environmental footprints. Their files are stored on servers, viewed by personal computers, and connected via networks. To operate these components, all of which are necessary to create a complete website experience, electricity must be consumed. And to generate much of that electricity, fossil fuels like coal and natural gas are usually being burned."

Seems we are all using a lot of energy - hey reading (and writing) this article just took away from the world's energy supplies.

And we can't forget Yahoo and Microsoft - hell the press about the take over bid last year must have used enough energy to power a small country.

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.