[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]
ARCHIVED  October 22, 1999

Wyoming fuels wattage for the Web

Up in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, huge draglines and coal-haul trucks are fueling the Information Superhighway, and they have to work a little harder each time you turn on your computer and go online.

Performing a typical function on the Internet, such as downloading a file or ordering a product, consumes the equivalent of half a pound of coal in electricity, according to a new report from the Greening Earth Society.

The report by Greening Earth Society science adviser Mark P. Mills, titled “The Internet Begins with Coal,” argues that growing use of personal computers and the Internet is fueling a growing demand for electricity.

“The electricity appetite of the equipment on the Internet has grown from essentially nothing 10 years ago to 8 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption today,” Mills writes. “In all likelihood, the Internet is responsible for one-half to two-thirds of all the growth in electricity demand.”

And it is going to continue to grow as more and more computers go online across the world, he predicts.

That’s good news for Wyoming, which last year produced 29 percent of the nation’s coal that in turn produced about 16 percent of the nation’s electricity.

“The computer and the Internet is now taking more electricity than the basic-metal industry — more than the chemical and petroleum refining industries put together,´ said Marion Loomis, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, which includes the state’s coal and uranium producers.

“For you to access the Internet, it takes your computer hooked up, it takes the provider’s computers being hooked up, with all their servers, and then it takes the computers to supply the Web pages,” Loomis said. “So you’ve got all these computers running all the time just so you can access the Internet.”

Loomis described the Greening Earth Society as a conservative, industry-oriented group. In sharing a white paper on the Mills report with Wyoming legislators, he said that Wyoming stands ready to provide the coal and uranium needed for the additional electricity demands.

In calculating the use of electricity by the Internet, Mills looked at personal and business computers; devices that make the Internet possible, such as routers, transmitters and switches; devices such as Web servers and computers used to feed information into the Internet; and the factories that manufacture all of the equipment used in the Internet.

He came up with a total of 295 billion kilowatt-hours per year, the equivalent of 8 percent of the nation’s total electric supply and more than the total electric output of Italy.

“While environmentalists and utility employees have been standing on desks to screw in light bulbs that save 10 watts here and 50 watts there, the people seated at those desks have been plugging in PCs and peripherals that gobble 1,000 watts and more, and create an echo on the Internet requiring even more power,” Mills observed.

“On top of the sheer demand for power, the very nature of the Internet and information age creates an unprecedented demand for reliability,” he added. “Keeping a gigawatt-based network up 24 hours a day, seven days a week, sets a new standard for high power reliability.”

In Mills’ view, the debate over what sources of power should be used in the coming century “will be buried by the demand for lots of cheap, increasingly reliable power.”

“We are at the beginning of a new convergent age of information and electrons,” Mills said, calling it the greatest challenge since the dawn of the electric age a century ago.

“While many environmentalists want to substantially reduce coal use in making electricity, there is no chance of meeting future economically driven and Internet-accelerated electric demand without retaining and expanding the coal component,” he concluded.

Up in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, huge draglines and coal-haul trucks are fueling the Information Superhighway, and they have to work a little harder each time you turn on your computer and go online.

Performing a typical function on the Internet, such as downloading a file or ordering a product, consumes the equivalent of half a pound of coal in electricity, according to a new report from the Greening Earth Society.

The report by Greening Earth Society science adviser Mark P. Mills, titled “The Internet Begins with Coal,” argues that growing use of personal computers and the Internet is fueling a growing…

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]

Related Content

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-interstitial zone="30"]