Skip to main content

A minor character flaw

Dear Members and Constituents,
How much does a character typed on an e-mail contribute to global warming? Until recently, I had taken it for granted that electronic communications were "clean", with zero impact on the environment. I started having second thoughts when I read 1.5% of the world's electric supply is consumed by server farms (and growing at a fairly substantial rate).

Rather than go on faith alone, I figured I'd do the math... Before we go on, here are the disclaimers on my analysis: (a) it is based on the top results of my Google searches, (b) the math was not double-checked, (c) sources were not scrubbed for reliability and (d) they are not cited. Therefore, (e) these findings should be interpreted as directional.

If we consider there are approximately 150 billion e-mails being sent every day and the average number of words per e-mail is about 110 -with an average word length (in the English language) of 5.1 characters, then we have approximately 30 quadrillion (15 zeroes) characters being e-mailed per year.

I could not get a more recent figure (I'm sure it's out there), however in 2005, the worldwide energy consumption was 500 exa-Joules (EJ --18 zeroes), 86% of which was created by burning fossil fuels. If we go back to 1.5% of this supply being used by server farms, that leaves 7.5 EJ (6.5 EJ from fossil fuels). Keep in mind that only about 1.5% of internet traffic is actually e-mail, which leaves 100 peta-Joules (15 zeroes) of carbon-emitting electricity used for e-mail.

If you divide these two figures out (total characters e-mailed and fossil-fuel-based energy used to power them), you get 3.17 Joules of electricity per-character e-mailed. Fossil fuels emit between 60 (natural gas) and 90 (coal) kilograms of CO2 per giga-Joule (9 zeroes). If we use the average of 75 Kilograms (165 pounds), we get 0.0000005 lbs of CO2 for every character you type and send on an e-mail. That means that with 2,625 characters in this e-mail (including spaces), 0.0012 lbs of CO2 were emitted per recipient. With 60 recipients, this e-mail may be responsible for an astounding 1/12 of a pound of CO2 (if these calculations hold). Now before you start driving places instead of sending e-mails, you should know a gallon of gas produces 19.4 pounds of CO2 as it gets burned in your car.

Fortunately, walking over to my desk to grab a donut does not require you burn any fossil fuels and Rich Law's donut selection ensures your trip is highly likely to be worthwhile. So, come on down and grab a bite (in-fact, a giga-bite may be in good order today), besides, the walk should help build some... character.
Happy Friday!


Popular posts from this blog

Family and Friends

I’m trying to maximize the time I spend with friends and family while in Ecuador. My dad had nine siblings, my wife’s dad 15. As you might imagine, my cousins and their families are fairly numerous (despite the fact five of my dad’s brothers didn’t marry or have children). Then there’s my wife’s family and my childhood friends. Needless to say, there is never enough time to see everyone, despite a valiant effort. Of course, I’m also working from “home”. Corny as it may sound, working half a world away, I realize I miss my Windstream “family” and I look forward to seeing you soon. In the meantime, there are donuts, here today courtesy of John Huddleston.  So, enjoy some comfort food with regards from my Cuenca family (pictured) to you!

Donuts and Space-Time

Have you ever stopped to consider the profound (and sometimes unforeseen) impact our actions can have on the fabric of the universe? The thought occurred to me as I was watching Pablo, my 6 foot something fourteen-year-old son. He is a smart, likeable, independent young man who is starting to assert his personal tastes (big Afro) and will, sooner than you know it, be an adult -fully in charge of his own destiny. If you rewind just a little, it was not so long ago he was that "I'm cute and I know it" six-year-old, small enough to sit on daddy's lap, sporting a hairstyle to daddy's liking. Rewind a little further and he was a twinkle in his daddy's eye. A decision waiting to be made. An action ready to be taken. Pure potential. Today, I can’t imagine life without him (or any of my other kids). Back then, I couldn’t imagine how much he would enrich my life. The same can be said for so many decisions. Enrolling in University, starting a new project, maki…

Muffins and Covfefe

Friends, I’m surprised that none of those trolling POTUS over the Covfefe tweet have suggested an acronym-related explanation. After all, he is the commander in chief, and much like telecom, the military is replete with acronyms and abbreviations. Here are some plausible explanations. ·A new top secret chemical weapon, inadvertently referenced due to an innate desire to Brag –it would explain the ensuing “oops” silence. Referenced by its chemical elements: Cobalt Vanadium di-Iron (CoVFeFe or CoVFe2). ·He may have been talking about the border wall: Concrete Obstacle Visioned to Forcefully Exclude Foreign Entry ·It could be that he was contemplating a new shorthand that packs a high concentration of superlatives. Charming Outrageously Very Fabulous Extremely Fantastic Eyepopping (which could be followed by any noun) ·It’s possible he was explaining the rationale for leaving the Paris accord: Climate Optimistic Views Fiercely Avoiding Factual Evidence ·It could also be a new telecom techno…