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The Internet Is Not Neutral as to Energy Consumption

By Peter Clarke, JD on December 20, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

The internet is just "there" for us and our many online needs. But how often do you think about what it takes to power cyberspace?

Well, consider this: Google alone consumes practically the same amount of electricity each year as does the entire city of San Francisco, according to a recent article by Curbed San Francisco.

This same article refers back to a 2015 Wired piece that reported at that time that Google was purchasing sufficient renewable energy for "two San Franciscos."

Indeed, the Curbed San Francisco article also harkened back to a 2009 GreenTech Media blog that stated that just one Google data center used as much energy as Manhattan.

Obviously, Google, while an online beast, nevertheless is just one of many thousands of internet companies, all of which require energy.

The massive energy consumption of online companies has not gone unnoticed. The good news is that efforts are being made to manage and even reduce such consumption, and some tech companies have received "green" awards for their progress.

Still, the next time you fire up your computer, keep in mind what it takes to bring the online world to you. This often is not top of mind. It is not as tangible as breathing in polluted air from a nearby factory, or witnessing contaminated waterways. However, the future of our planet still depends on smart online energy consumption.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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