Is the proliferation of electronic devices in homes and offices causing a net increase or decrease in electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions?
This question has been a topic of heated controversy ever since 1999, when technology analyst Mark P. Mills published a study provocatively titled “The Internet Begins with Coal,” and co-authored with Peter Huber a Forbes column titled “Dig more coal – the PCs are coming.”
Others–notably Joe Romm and researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory–argued that the Internet was a minor contributor to electricity demand and potentially a major contributor to energy savings in such areas as supply chain management, telecommuting, and online purchasing.
Mills and Huber argued that digital networks, server farms, chip manufacture, and information technology had become a new key driver of electricity demand. …