Google: Search Produces 0.2 Grams Of C02

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has placed his company at the forefront of the energy debate, arguing that green IT can contribute to lowering overall carbon footprints

Google is again trying to show how much it loves a reduced carbon footprint.

A posting on the official Google blog takes pains to demonstrate just how much energy a standard search actually burns. Earlier in 2009, a Harvard University physicist made news by stating that executing two Google searches on a computer can generate nearly the same amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide) as boiling a kettle.

Google moved quickly to refute those findings, arguing that the speed of its search processes prevented it from burning so much energy. Now, the company seems determined to drill down into the issue a little further.

“Our engineers crunched the numbers and found that an average query uses about 1 kJ of energy and emits about 0.2 grams of carbon dioxide,” Urs Holzle, senior vice president of Operations at Google, wrote in the 11 May posting. In context, he claims, it would take 3.1 million Google searches to equal the electricity consumed by the average U.S. household in one month.

At the same time, Google claims that it has dedicated engineers to milking as much carbon efficiency as possible out of its data centres. “Through efficiency innovations, we have managed to cut energy usage in our data centres by over 50 percent, so we’re using less than half the energy to run our data centers as the industry average,” Holzle wrote. “This efficiency means that in the time it takes to do a Google search, your own personal computer will likely use more energy than we will use to answer your query.

Google has been pushing a national energy plan, with CEO Eric Schmidt proposing a sweeping national energy plan that will slice greenhouse gas emissions nearly in half by 2030. In addition to acting out of pure altruism, Schmidt claims that such a plan would save his company enormous amounts of money in the long-term.

“In our case, we’re huge energy users, so a relatively straightforward solution to our energy costs goes right to the bottom line,” Schmidt said during an environmental conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal on 4 March.

Also in March 2009, Google announced that it was setting up Google Ventures, a venture capital fund intended to invest in consumer Internet, software, clean-tech, bio-tech, health care, and other startup areas. Some of its projects run through that arm could conceivably involve “green” IT.