Sunday, October 30, 2011

Capitalist Environmentalism

People often think of companies as inherently anti-environment. This seems a bit strange, since companies would love to not pollute if it was the cheapest thing to do. After all, pollution means that you bought something and then threw it away. Cutting costs ties at least as much to environmentalism, not against it.

Consider server farms, which are black holes of energy consumption. About 1% of the world's energy goes to powering the computers and cooling them down. And half of that one percent goes to cooling. So companies like Facebook are moving their server farms to the Arctic Circle, where they can use the natural cool air to cut costs. Facebook is now building one in Lulea, Sweden.
Lulea's dry, frigid weather "definitely is a big part" of the company's decision to build there, Facebook spokesman Michael Kirkland said. Using outside air to cool servers is "absolutely beneficial not just from an environmental perspective, but also from a cost perspective."

Analysts agree. There are "overwhelming financial advantages" to building in the far north, according to Rakesh Kumar, an analyst with Gartner.

Utilizing free outside air can result in "tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions [of dollars], of savings per year" for each site, Kumar said.
Full story here.

HT: Tyler Cowen

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your first paragraph shows that, like many libertarians, you live in a fantasy world. You say "People often think of companies as inherently anti-environment. This seems a bit strange, since companies would love to not pollute if it was the cheapest thing to do. After all, pollution means that you bought something and then threw it away. Cutting costs ties at least as much to environmentalism, not against it."

Which is cheaper, dumping waste into the river, or running a proper treatment plant? Which is cheaper, a smokestack with a scrubber or one without. In both these cases, pollution is cheaper, so, without laws saying that they cannot pollute, companies do.

Chris Sky said...


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