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Google blames cheeseburgers for destroying the planet

OJ, newspapers guilty too

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Google has declared newspapers, orange juice and cheeseburgers that much more harmful to the planet than running a vast network of datacentres.

Urs Hölzle, senior vice president operations at Happyland Central, took to the Google blog today to put its claims that the average Google search "uses about 1 kJ of energy and emits about 0.2 grams of carbon dioxide" in context.

This is dramatically less than Harvard prof Alex Wissner-Gross claimed back in January. He calculated that a Google search was equivalent to around 7.5g of CO2.

Still, for the sake of argument, we'll take Hölzle's figure as a starting point. Hölzle then declares that an average daily newspaper accounts for the equivalent of 850 Google searches, while a glass of orange juice stacks up to 1050 searches. So, that's pages of algorithm sorted links before you've even gotten as far as your morning coffee and muffin.

It inevitably gets worse. A five mile trip in an automobile equates to 10,000 searches, according to Hölzle, while a cheeseburger (remember, you only had OJ for breakfast) is a whopping 15,000 searches.

At this point it's no surprise that an average US household burns enough energy per month to serve up 3.1 million Google searches - or 207 cheeseburgers. Which for a family of four is about 1.7 cheeseburgers each a day. We suppose it's just possible the Google search equivalent in newspapers would be even more nutritious.

Anyway, Hölzle reassures his readers that Google is working hard to reduce its energy usage, and has in fact cut it by 50 per cent; though he neglects to say compared to what, over what period, whether this is a per server or per search or overall figure, and how many cheeseburgers or newspapers this equates to.

But he does point out that, "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."

So there you have it, if you want to enjoy a cheeseburger or newspaper - or even a newspaper's own website - without feeling climate guilt, just steer clear of Google. ®

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