Kyoto vs. the Net

by William Yeatman on February 11, 2000

in Blog

On February 2 the House Subcommittee on National Economic Growth, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs held a hearing to learn more about the impact of the explosion in Internet usage on electricity demand. The hearing featured testimony from Jay Hakes, Administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Agency, Joseph Romm, Executive Director of the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions, and Mark Mills, science advisor for the Greening Earth Society and senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Chairman David McIntosh (R-IN) set the tone by arguing that coal is used to produce half of the USs electricity needs. “Coal is the fuel source targeted for extinction by the Kyoto Protocol. Is there not a fundamental incompatibility between the energy requirements of the digital economy and the Kyoto Protocol,” he asked. “Can we really wire the world and at the same time restrict US and global access to abundant, affordable, and reliable electric power?”

According to Romm, the Internet will actually make it easier to comply with Kyotos energy restrictions. He claimed that the Internet uses at most 1 percent of the USs total electricity consumption. Mills, on the other hand, argued that it uses 8 percent. Romms testimony was based on a study by his organization that concludes, “The Internet itself is not a major energy user, largely because it draws heavily on existing communications and computing infrastructure.”

Mills responded that, “This observation reflects such a deep misunderstanding of the telecommunications revolution that it is difficult to know how to respond. Just what exactly do the authors think the past half decade of over several trillion dollars in new investment in telecommunications and computing equipment has been for and driven by, if not the Internet?” Copies of the written testimony can be found at

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