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Data Centers Expected to Pollute More Than Airlines by 2020 322

Posted by timothy
from the it's-all-that-smut-in-the-wires dept.
Dionysius, God of Wine and Leaf, writes with a link to a New York Times story on a source of pollution that doesn't leave contrails: "The world's data centers are projected to surpass the airline industry as a greenhouse gas polluter by 2020, according to a new study by McKinsey & Co. ... [C]omputer servers are used at only 6 percent of their capacity on average, while data center facilities as a whole are used at 56 percent of peak performance." Data centers, though, might have more options for going green than airlines do, given present technology.
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Data Centers Expected to Pollute More Than Airlines by 2020

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  • More Options? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2008 @11:26PM (#23288574)
    Hardly.

    Most datacenters are contracted out. The companies hiring the datacenters do so based on price. And clean fuels have an enormous amount of catching up to do if they ever want to compete with coal. But let's say that a carbon tax is applied. Then these datacenter contractors will simply move their operations to somewhere that doesn't have these taxes. Heck, why do you think there are so many datacenters in the US?

    But what if the companies hiring these datacenter contractors decide that they want to be green? Then these datacenter contractors will simply do some half-assed unproven carbon-offset like dumping iron into the oceans or planting trees in a place that can't support them (cheap real estate like tundra or desert wins here--especially if it is done in the 'future' while the offset company is preparing its sites).

    The only real solution is the one that applies to the entire electricity grid. Either you need to massively subsidize renewable fuels or slightly subsidize nuclear power to deal with your entire electrical grid carbon problem. You have to do subsidies because you are competing with the energy prices with places like China.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hardburn (141468)

      It's very expensive to move a datacenter. It's not just the building and server hardware, but local infrastructure, too. The biggest datacenters are in California for a reason.

      Therefore, the carbon tax need only be enough that taking the premium on greener energy tech is cheeper than taking the tax + moving and rebuilding infrastructure.

      • Re:More Options? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by WaltBusterkeys (1156557) * on Sunday May 04, 2008 @01:18AM (#23289138)

        It's not just the building and server hardware, but local infrastructure, too.
        More importantly, it's where the big network connections intersect. A big data center in the middle of nowhere (with only 1 route to the outside world) is slow and vulnerable to backhoes. A data center near a major network interconnect (think west side of NY, or One Wilshire in LA [crgwest.com]) is somewhere useful -- data is close to the major lines and can be routed redundantly.

        Until they move the large cross-Pacific network connections to the Hoover Dam, it's going to make sense to keep data centers near network lines.
    • What percentage of the power consumption of running a data center is cooling? If they were to build a data center in a really cold environment, I wonder if they could pump the resulting heat under the ground in the immediate area, warming it up enough to plant trees...

      Although the other thing typical of tundra environments is the lack of sunlight, which may be more of a problem than the cold.

      • What percentage of the power consumption of running a data center is cooling? If they were to build a data center in a really cold environment, I wonder if they could pump the resulting heat under the ground in the immediate area, warming it up enough to plant trees...

        Planting trees in cold climates would increase warming not decrease or slow it. That's because darker colors adsorb heat. This is happening in the Arctic, ice reflects light but as it melts into liquid water the water adsorbs the light an

    • I think you have made some interesting points.

      However, I think the major issue is this: The people who design datacenters are some of the smartest people in the world. They've certainly thought about the issues. They know the cost of electricity.

      They know that Intel is delivering 45 nanometer CPU designs. They know that Intel is working on 32 nanometer CPUs, and that there will eventually be 22 nanometer processors, for delivery in 8 years. Each new processor architecture uses less power. So, the problem will solve itself, to some degree.

      The article in the New York Times is ignorant, meant for ignorant readers who don't know any better. Maybe someone took money; maybe the NYT article is really a public relations stunt, a way for McKinsey & Company [wikipedia.org] to attract as clients managers who have little technical experience.

      A lot of people who talk about being "green", are people who are green in the sense of having little experience.
      • Each new architecture does use less power, but that's not the way things are heading...
        New CPUs may have much better performance/watt, but the overall performance is increased too, thus the amount of actual power used stays the same or even increases.
        There's also increasingly bloated software, all this managed high level language code etc, which uses far more energy to do the same work. And modern powerful servers which sit idle for the most part.
        You could easily make lower performing servers using modern techniques, and reduce power consumption hugely... Modern embedded processors are faster than high end server processors from a few years ago, and yet use a small fraction of the power, but they wouldn't be good running modern bloated apps in high level languages.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by kitgerrits (1034262) *
          Or, you could install virtualization on that super-fast machine end consolidate all your servers onto it.
          Modern datacenters sell either tiles (to place a rack), rackspace (for a few servers) or virtual computing power.

          The cost of each is reflected in the price so smart customers will move away from discrete hardware and towards virtual servers.
          That way you can literally run hundreds of low-power servers on one high-power machine.
          Low-power servers are nice, but they're not failure-resistant and the sheer num
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kesuki (321456)
      "But let's say that a carbon tax is applied."

      Why apply a carbon tax, when most coal fired power plants are located in locations where an algae based carbon recovery system (and combo pollution scrubbing system) can create not only vast amounts of vegetable oil, but even larger quantities of vegetable matter that can be feed to livestock, or combusted for energy, or converted to ethanol.

      If you required all coal fired plants to use an algae based carbon recovery system, you would instantly create a massive s
    • Nuclear Power is subsidized by the U.S. Government in an interesting way.

      In order for the first and any subsequent private nuclear reactors to even be built,
      the Congress passed a law [wikipedia.org] capping the amount nuclear reactor operators could be held liable. The operators are required to obtain $300 million per plant in insurance. If claims go beyond that, the industry is on the hook to provide a pool of money to pay claims beyond that $300 million. They are not required to provide this money until an accident oc
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kesuki (321456)
      "You have to do subsidies because you are competing with the energy prices with places like China."

      didn't see that the first go round.. That isn't really true, China has a notorious reputation for producing sub standard products. It's a reputation well earned, it's true that producing a higher quality product costs more, and even companies known for their quality are sub contracting parts of their businesses to china to stay cost competitive.. but you don't have to compete with china for cost of energy.

      w
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      But what if the companies hiring these datacenter contractors decide that they want to be green? Then these datacenter contractors will simply do some half-assed unproven carbon-offset like dumping iron into the oceans or planting trees in a place that can't support them (cheap real estate like tundra or desert wins here--especially if it is done in the 'future' while the offset company is preparing its sites).

      Or use power from renewable energy sources, use energy efficient power supplies and switch to coo

  • Excellent (Score:5, Funny)

    by Plazmid (1132467) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @11:33PM (#23288614)
    Excellent, the faster this planet's resources are used up the faster we start using other planets resources.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Stormwatch (703920)
      Vespene gas, anyone?
    • but do you know what the lag time is for a Mars datacenter? Over 480,000 milliseconds lol. I guess data centers that run on martian magic and martian crust devil slaves are out. But this whole study is BS anyway because it assumes that we know all computer, energy, processing, storage, and other hardware upgrades that will happen in the future. Could people 12 years ago predicted what we have now. Not even remotely close. Dual core processing? Water cooling? Cooling that runs on chip heat? Sorcery
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet (841228)
        Not to mention I read somewhere that the biggest contributor to global warming isn't the cars,planes,or as the article suggests future datacenters,but the billions of cows we have bred farting their little brains out releasing pure methane while they have more and more land clear cut to feed them. It is a shame we haven't figured out how to capture all those cow farts as there would be a fix to the energy crisis right there!

        But seriously from what I read (I believe on New Scientist but I can't seem to f

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2008 @11:36PM (#23288634)
    Aiso.net is a smallish hosting provider utilizing ACTUAL SOLAR to power their datacenter,

    NONE OF THIS CARBON TRADING MALARKY. And they're super flexible because they're not huge yet.

    Located in San Diego I believe. Phil, their big tech cheese, is VERY generous with his time.

    Vote with your feet, clean with your wallet, live by your choices.
  • by pembo13 (770295) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @11:39PM (#23288644) Homepage
    Data centers need electricity, not jet fuel. There are many semi-environmental ways to generate electricity. At some point companies will do that purely out of cost saving.
    • Even if they don't do that, the relationship to airplanes has nothing to do with the value or quantity of work they put out.

      Certainly a best effort is important, but comparing polution output without considering value is worse than useless as a data point.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zappepcs (820751)
      It's not just the generation of electricity that is at issue. It is how that electricity is used also at issue.

      2500 servers all converting from AC to DC = sizable loss of juice. Poorly designed data center rackspace using 10-30% (straight from my ass) more A/C than they would with efficient installations. I'm talking about force air systems that are misused etc.

      Installing passive heat exchange systems will also help when they become available.

      The point is that there are MANY things that can be done to cut d
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rossdee (243626)
      They could relocate the Data Centers to North Dakota and Minnesota, where by 2020 there will be plenty of wind generated electricity, and the cool climate makes air conditioning unnecessary for 8 months of the year.
  • false economies (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @11:39PM (#23288650)
    I love it when they trot out these old war horses.

    let me ask you this - what resources would be consumed if we DIDN'T use computers for these jobs? how many forests would we cut down to store the data in the worlds data centers?

    i think people who write this kind of dribble lack any perspective. computers are energy savers, not wasters.

    • Re:false economies (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Sunday May 04, 2008 @12:16AM (#23288820) Homepage Journal
      Well, I agree that the statistics are useless in and of themselves, but to be fair, how many data centres are actually doing useful work? Point-to-point streaming of broadcasts, for example, is a horrible waste of CPU power and bandwidth, but it is the dominant method used by webcam services. OS overheads are often unnecessarily high, due to the running of excess services or inefficient code. Server rooms are often run far too hot and cooling methods are often inefficent.

      If we measure greenhouse gas production, not as an absolute but as a percentage relative to what is actually required to do the useful component of the work, my guess would be that data centres do not work out to be that green.

      • by timmarhy (659436)
        define useful though. i'm not arguing that data centers can't be better, i'm arguing against the retarded notion that computers are somehow bad for the environment.
        • by jd (1658)
          How to define useful. That's actually a very good question and critical in the understanding of environmental impact. Is a game useful? Depends on perspective. Is MSN useful? Well, ok, I'll skip that one. I guess I consider a computer as an electronic enzyme, something that converts an input into an output without consuming itself in the process. One step is not necesarily enough to produce the type of output desired, so there may be quite an extensive chain of conversions. Eventually, though, you produce a
    • by eihab (823648)
      I'd mod you up, but I'm out of mod points.

      Your post makes absolute sense. I have at least 500 pictures of my son saved on my computer/backed up. I only printed a few of them to create a calendar that I sent to my parents. (not have albums upon albums saved up like my parents did).

      I mainly shop online, meaning I don't drive my car to get to "the mall" and waste gas (and dodge all the flyers they try to hand out)!

      Two weak examples, but I'm pretty sure you can easily count the things done with computers vs. wi
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) * on Saturday May 03, 2008 @11:43PM (#23288670) Journal
    given that there isn't going to be much of an airline industry in 2020. By then, fuel will be so expensive, air travel will revert to what it was prior to the 1970s: something the rich did.

    RS

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      wrong. by 2020 EVERYTHING will be too expensive due to poor economic policy based on non science and fear mongering.
    • by Chabil Ha' (875116) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @12:39AM (#23288938)
      Or we could go back to trying to do nuclear powered aircraft [tripod.com]. This image [tripod.com] depicts a single prototype engine--its resting place is in southern Idaho.
      • by Watson Ladd (955755) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:42AM (#23291050)
        It was originally designed to deliver nuclear weapons. But then they realized the radioactive fallout from the exhaust would be much more damaging. The air passed through the core and so was exposed to neutron radiation, making it chock-full of nasty isotopes. The xenon from the reactor would also exit in the exhaust stream, adding to the radioactivity hazard. There are good reasons why that technology died.
    • by jamesh (87723)

      air travel will revert to what it was prior to the 1970s: something the rich did.

      Ditto for going by sea, unless you can row!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TooMuchToDo (882796)
      Or we're going to switch to biofuels. Several universities have tested aviation engines with a biofuel kerosene replacement. There isn't enough biofuel to replace oil for vehicles, but aviation uses only around 3-5 percent of total oil consumption, so there's some room to play with their fuel supply. No, aviation isn't going anywhere, it's just going to change.
  • by ericferris (1087061) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @11:43PM (#23288676) Homepage
    I went to a seminar on building new data centers. There we a part about location of new data center. The favorite places in Europe were France and Germany, because of cheap power generated by non-polluting nuclear power plant.

    I am aware of the end-of-life problem surrounding nuclear power, but you got to admit that if your goal is to avoid burning stuff, you cannot get any better than this. Especially in crowded, not-so-sunny Europe, where you cannot even make a "what if we paved the desert with solar cells" hypothesis.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by shbazjinkens (776313)

      I am aware of the end-of-life problem surrounding nuclear power, but you got to admit that if your goal is to avoid burning stuff, you cannot get any better than this. Especially in crowded, not-so-sunny Europe, where you cannot even make a "what if we paved the desert with solar cells" hypothesis.

      Why not? Africa isn't too far south of Europe. It's not any further than the Eastern USA is from the deserts of the USA, mostly in the southwest. The reason that doesn't matter is because we have a national p

    • by henni16 (586412)

      The favorite places in Europe were France and Germany, because of cheap power generated by non-polluting nuclear power plant.


      I hope they mentioned that Germany decided in 2000 to phase out all of its nuclear reactors with the last one going off the grid in 2020 or 2021
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by falconwolf (725481)

      I went to a seminar on building new data centers. There we a part about location of new data center. The favorite places in Europe were France and Germany, because of cheap power generated by non-polluting nuclear power plant.

      Ah but nuclear power is polluting. Nuclear power pollutes from the ground to the ground, cradle to cradle.

      I am aware of the end-of-life problem surrounding nuclear power, but you got to admit that if your goal is to avoid burning stuff, you cannot get any better than this.

      It's

    • by blind biker (1066130) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @06:06AM (#23290164) Journal
      France is predominantly nuclear, but Germany? That can't be right. The green party in Germany got all nuclear plants shot down (or scheduled to shut down) and the main energy source now is... wait for it... the much more polluting COAL! Good job, german green party: did you know that a coal plant will discharge into the environmnent twice as much radioactive pollutants per kilowatt-hour, than a nuclear plant? And we haven't even mentioned various other toxic materials, principally sulphur. And of course, CO2, in droves.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The average X86 server running a single app utilizes about 5% - 10% of it's resources. The average server running VMware utilizes 80% - 120% of it's resources (due to CPU scheduling, transparent page sharing, etc.) It's no wonder that every major datacenter is switching to VMware as the default x86 platform. Buy up that VMware stock, kiddies - it's the next Google!!!
  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @11:52PM (#23288710) Homepage
    Anyone else remember when "pollution" was stuff like sulfuric acid, low-level ozone, toxic chemicals, and stuff like that? Carbon di-oxy-ide, who'da thunk, eh?
    • by timmarhy (659436)
      you have to keep your masses huddled and quivering.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by XanC (644172)
      Those were the days. I think the watermelon environmentalists have revealed their true colors when they define "pollution" as "anything that humans put out".
      • by evanbd (210358) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @12:52AM (#23289000)

        Some of us define pollution as "anything that causes severe enough damage to our environment to make life difficult for us humans." And guess what, low-level ozone, ozone layer depleting compounds, acid rain precursors, CO2, volatile hydrocarbons, fertilizer runoff, and a variety of other things all count under that definition.

        I can be really selfish and even somewhat short-sighted and still come to the conclusion that there is a problem on a massive scale. I have no particular need for us to not create any CO2, but it should be obvious to anyone who bothers to look at the data and the studies that we can't continue on our current pace.

        • by timmarhy (659436)
          CO2 does NOT belong in that list. it's a harmless gas that's present naturally, and it's a very minor greenhouse gas, of which we only contribute 0.28% of.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by wizardforce (1005805)
            you're an idiot. 25 billion tons of CO2 annually and you're suggesting it does nothing. minor greenhouse gas my ass.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Entropius (188861)
            Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are pumping enough "depleted" carbon into the atmosphere that the people who do carbon dating have to correct for it, since the atmospheric C-14 ratio is lower now than it was 50 years ago.

            If the people doing archaeological dating have to worry about it, I'd say it's major.
          • by statemachine (840641) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @02:55AM (#23289618)
            Ah, another anthropogenic climate change denier. Well, this article [newscientist.com] and the US Supreme Court [msn.com] disagree with you.
  • by xzvf (924443) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @11:59PM (#23288752)
    At the late 19th century steam engines were well established technology for shipping, trains and factories but they were very inefficient. Somewhere in the range of 15%. By the early 20th century steam power was at least twice as efficient (maybe more). Today most servers in data centers run around 15% utilization, doubling the utilization will slow the increased need for power. Virtualization, efficient parallel programming, thin client and network centric computing all have potential to double the efficiency of data centers. What would really be a breakthrough is a hybrid plane. Maybe with wireless power from space.
    • by nebaz (453974)
      So what you're saying is that we should power data centers with steam engines? Brilliant.
    • A hybrid plane? A car works as a hybrid because it's momentum can be stored in a battery and called upon to re-accelerate the car. If you try to reduce power in a plane, you lose altitude. There's no momentum to save. More power raises altitude, less power lower altitude, just enough power keeps you at level flight.
  • The article's claim is probably not true. While the amount of electricity used by data centers has been greatly increasing, that's only because so many new ones are being built. Eventually, we get to the point where everyone and their dog has their own data center, and the trend stops. Also, Moore's Law means that data centers in the future will do more work with less hardware and less electricity. Trying to predict how much electricity will be used by computers in 2020 is silly, because even Intel can't kn
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @12:03AM (#23288768)
    At least when it comes to my customers, the stuff that lives in datacenters is there - at least in part - to support distributed workers. In droves, they are shifting towards working from home, avoiding a lot of transportation-intensive face time, and learning to take advantage of not having to have their same back-office systems humming in a closet in a rented office where nobody shows up any more, except to reset the router so they can go back home and get some damn work done.

    Some newly used rack space in datacenters actually offsets other daily fuel burning - sometimes a lot of it.
  • by JRHelgeson (576325) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @12:25AM (#23288864) Homepage Journal
    People that make such sweeping claims as this crap just light my fuse. They want to complain, and it seems their only point is to offer compromised solutions... Its like they fell like they're being helpful by getting in the way. If people would just start thinking realistically about these problems and allow the building of Nuclear Power plants, this problem would be solved. But it seems that these people don't want solutions, they want to complain about something. All they can do is point to a NEAR catastrophe, which was a mere accident at 3 mile island 30 years ago. Give. Me. A. Break!

    You get more radiation from eating a BANANA than you do from living next door to a nuclear power plant. And while on the subject, I used to think that these people were simply "NIMBY's", the age old Not In My Back Yard type of folks. But these people aren't NIMBY's, These people are BANANAS! Build Almost Nothing Anywhere Near Anything. They are flat out anti-progress and they do it in the nicest way "we're trying to help".

    I say BULLSHIT! You have three choices: Nuclear Power, Agrarian Society, Global Warming. Pick one.

    • by Burz (138833)
      Funny thing though... the blue-blooded types who are the most heavily invested in the return of nuclear power (and nuclear weapons) as a growth industry tend to live in the very pretty-pretty places that are so exclusive and restrictive that NIMBY-ism pales in comparison.

      All in all, its disingenuous to rail against NIMBY-ism when the above people call the economic shots and have a deregulated industry to boot. Problem is, their nuclear people and their insurance people (darlings though they are) don't want
  • I'll bet there's a huge consulting wing at McKinsey, waiting to help you redesign your data center.

    While it's true that cost savings aren't being seen because data center/NOC design is state-of-the-art 1995, there's lots being done to achieve better savings. Virtualization (while not green, still a good performance/watt idea) works wonders. SaaS is in its infancy. Higher storage/watt is here, today, as well. Until we find the end of Moore's Law, we'll continue to be more efficient, if only because energy==m
  • I may just be ignorant, but...is there something specific about the airline industry that makes it a bad thing to surpass it? I haven't seen actual numbers on emissions for airliners, but it seems like we could drum up some other things that burn more fuel. Like, oh, I don't know, the *auto industry*? What about manufacturing plants? Chemical/pharmaceutical facilities? Any class of facilities that process raw materials?

    But of course the randomly selected slashdotter has some vested interest in data centers,
  • Then just die. Seriously.

    The reason we have the impact we do on the environment is that there are just too damn many of us, and not many are volunteering to leave the party. Instead, they're inviting their kids over.

    And I'm no one to talk, either. I've procreated a little more than my fair share, and my wife won't let me redress the balance. But still, global warming proves that we finally have reached the point where our numbers are detrimental to humanity's welfare. And eating less meat, driving less ofte

  • First, which side gets the data centres used by the airlines?

    Second, what idiot is predicting the relative growths and advancements of two industries twelve years from now?

    Let me guess, airlines won't pollute as much because most of us will be in our flying cars.

    Shut up.
  • For those of you who are keeping score on who's talking the talk and who's walking the walk I offer this:

    A tale of two houses [snopes.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by njcoder (657816)

      For those of you who are keeping score on who's talking the talk and who's walking the walk I offer this:

      A tale of two houses [snopes.com]

      For a long time Bush has been downplaying or denying the effects of global warming. But behind the American People's backs he went ahead and built a geo-disaster proof bunker in 2001.

      I need to change my pants.
  • Servers run at low capacity for two important reasons:

    * User load/demand is variable. A lot of the capacity sizing is not for average demand but for peak demand. For example, mail servers see a lot more use at 1pm on Monday than at 5am on Sunday. Mail servers need enough capacity to deliver an all-company email from the CEO in a timely manner. If you reduce capacity to "even it out", big spikes in email, such as that all-company email from the CEO, cause mail delivery to be delayed many hours. The same
  • Wouldn't going green be easy for most good data centers?

    Already have tons of batteries and infrastructure to be able to work off the grid. Diesel generators could be powered by bio-diesel.

    Really this is kinda stupid. Data Centers don't emit anything. If the electrical power generators were green, Data Centers would be by default.
    • Data centers emit pollution, it's just emitted at the generation facility, not the datacenter.

      The generators installed at datacenter facilities are backup generators. Their duty cycle is not full-time. Also, that biodiesel needs to come from somewhere, trucked by a vehicle burning biodiesel, etc.

      Electricity is the most efficient energy delivery method, we just need to improve the energy generation method.

      • by njcoder (657816)

        Data centers emit pollution, it's just emitted at the generation facility, not the datacenter.
        When I said "If the electrical power generators were green, Data Centers would be by default." I meant the electric companies providing the power not their backup generators.
  • Flat out wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rix (54095) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @04:01AM (#23289794)
    Data centres emit absolutely no carbon. Zero.

    Electricity generation *can*, but it doesn't need to. The simple fact is that we can generate electricity without any carbon emissions with hydroelectric where available and nuclear where not. There's no justifiable reason to attribute carbon emissions from a coal fired plant to it's clients; alternatives are available, but regulators have dropped the ball in allowing coal to be used.
  • No Internet by 2050 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bxwatso (1059160) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:08AM (#23291212)
    Assuming population growth in this country does not stop, and assuming the USA can't get electricity from non-carbon sources, we will have to revert to a pre-industrial society to achieve Obama's carbon plan.

    There is no technology in existance that can provide all of the USA's electricity without carbon, except for nuclear. Things like wind and solar can only provide about 10-15% of the USA's current demand because they only work when the sun shines and the wind blows.

    Anyway, 80% emission reductions by 2050 would require that the USA give up a bunch of things, like cars, air conditioning, TV, hair dryers, air planes, buses, and computers. That is because the presidential candidate likes to toss out pleasant figures like 80 by 50 without consideration of reality.

    Population growth makes 80 by 50 impossible without a transforming technology like a nuclear powered economy with hydrogen transportation and storage of energy. It's not impossible to achieve, but politicians only like to talk about happy, fuzzy goals absent concrete plans to achieve them or admiting that they are extremely expensive.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      There is no technology in existance that can provide all of the USA's electricity without carbon, except for nuclear. Things like wind and solar can only provide about 10-15% of the USA's current demand because they only work when the sun shines and the wind blows.

      This is such a pernicious, pervasive non-point that I'm physically compelled to respond. Concentrating solar power doesn't stop when the sun goes down. While it's getting sunlight, it fills a heat reservoir that can be drained during the night.

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