Azara Blog: BBC publishes bad article about alleged emissions of google

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Date published: 2009/01/12

The BBC says:

Two search requests on the internet website Google produce "as much carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle", according to a Harvard University academic.

US physicist Alex Wissner-Gross claims that a typical Google search on a desktop computer produces about 7g CO2.

However, these figures were disputed by Google, who say a typical search produced only 0.2g of carbon dioxide.

A recent study by American research firm Gartner suggested that IT now causes two percent of global emissions.

The Harvard academic argues that these carbon emissions stem from the electricity used by the computer terminal and by the power consumed by the large data centres operated by Google around the world.
...
Dr Wissner-Gross said he was working on a website called co2stats.com which helps companies identify "energy inefficient" aspects of their websites.

In a statement on its official blog, Google said that Dr Wissner-Gross' figures were "many times too high."

The firm said that a typical search returned a result in less than 0.2 seconds and that the search itself only used its servers for a few thousandths of a second. This, said Google, amounted to 0.0003 kWh of energy per search - equivalent to 0.2g of CO2.

An extremely bad article by the BBC. First of all they provide no link to any calculations that Wissner-Gross does or does not allegedly have. But more importantly, Wissner-Gross has a conflict of interest here because co2stats.com provides a commercial service to organisations to allegedly help them reduce the emissions impact of their websites, and so Wissner-Gross clearly has an interest in plugging these kind of scare stories to further his commercial interest. That by itself makes his claims suspicious.

The BBC also quotes Gartner as claiming that "IT now causes two percent of global emissions". Yeah, well so what. The question is the bang for the buck. If IT is particularly wasteful then there is a story, if not, then there is not.

When it comes to electric cars, the BBC perpetually gushes about how wonderful these are, in spite of the fact that most electricity these days still comes from burning of fossil fuels. But when it comes to other uses of electricity, such as websites or mobile phones or whatever, then suddenly the BBC is all coy about electricity, and these services are allegedly suspect. Well, the BBC cannot have it both ways.

And if the BBC is allegedly so concerned about website electricity usage then perhaps the BBC can tell the world how much carbon emissions their website is responsible for. And if the BBC is allegedly so concerned about google searches in particular, then perhaps they should ban all their employees from using google.

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