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How Much Do Amazon Deliveries Contribute To Global Warming?

It’s no coincidence that the number of trucks on the road has doubled since Amazon launched in 1994. That’s a huge deal for the climate, as Vox reported last year in an article on the environmental impact of online shopping: “In 2016, transportation overtook power plants as the top producer of carbon dioxide emissions in the US for the first time since 1979. Nearly a quarter of the transportation footprint comes from medium- and heavy-duty trucks. And increasingly the impact is coming in what people in the world of supply-chain logistics call ‘the last mile,’ meaning the final stretch from a distribution center to a package’s destination. (The ‘last mile’ can in truth be a dozen miles or more.)”

The good news is that e-commerce has the potential to be less carbon-intensive than brick-and-mortar retail. As Anne Goodchild, director of the University of Washington’s Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center, told BuzzFeed News, delivery trucks emit “between 20% and 75% less carbon dioxide per customer on average than passenger vehicles driving to [stores].” But that’s only if online stores choose the delivery times themselves. That way, they can pack trucks full of goods and optimize their routes. “When customers choose,” Goodchild noted, “the carbon savings are significantly smaller.”

Thus, Amazon could significantly cut its carbon footprint by prioritizing shipping optimization over consumer convenience…. Americans will have to begin thinking of Amazon.com and other e-commerce sites not as on-demand delivery services for every little thing, but stores that require just as much forethought as a trip to the mall did twenty years ago. And that might be too much to ask of the average consumer in the digital age. In which case, the government might have to step in.

Amazon’s biggest carbon impact comes from its AWS cloud servers, though by the end of 2018 they’d already converted 50% of that to renewable energy, according to the article. And more green efforts may be coming. “For the past eight years, Bezos has ignored requests from the nonprofit Carbon Disclosure Project, which collects the carbon footprint data of large corporations. But last month, he agreed to eventually make the company’s emissions data public. It’s expected later this year.”

The article also raises the possibility of a future with delivery drones powered by renewable energy. But it adds tht until that day comes, expecting deliveries within 48 hours “is incompatible with solving global warming.”

Why Energy Is A Big And Rapidly Growing Problem For Data Centers

U.S. data centers use more than 90 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, requiring roughly 34 giant (500-megawatt) coal-powered plants. Global data centers used roughly 416 terawatts (4.16 x 1014 watts) (or about 3% of the total electricity) last year, nearly 40% more than the entire United Kingdom. And this consumption will double every four years.

Streaming video has already changed the game, but the explosion of artificial intelligence and internet-connected devices will change the entire landscape. AI is the future, and AI is hungry for processing power. IoT is projected to exceed 20 billion devices by 2020 (some analysts believe we will reach that number this year alone). Given there are currently 10 billion internet-connected devices, doubling that to 20 billion will require massive increases to our data center infrastructure, which will massively increase our electricity consumption.

How on earth can we possibly build all the power plants required to supply electricity to twice as many data centers in the next four years? The simple answer is that we can’t.

The Internet is not ethereal, it uses a lot of energy, resources and materials

Every website and product connected to the internet would not be able to exist without a vast network of wireless routers, fiber optic cables running underground and underwater, and data centers that house the servers which bring the internet to life. Data centers in the U.S. alone eat up 70 billion kilowatts of energy per year, according to a 2016 estimate from the Department of Energy — that’s 1.8 percent of all energy use across the country.

The internet is not ethereal, and a new project from the blog Low-Tech Magazine aims to make that issue more tangible. Low-Tech Magazine — a blog operated by Kris De Decker that has run on WordPress since 2007 — launched a “Low-Tech,” solar version of the site that’s designed from the ground-up to use as little energy as possible. In a Skype call with Motherboard, De Decker said that he doesn’t think people don’t care about how much energy it takes they use the internet, they just don’t understand the extent of the problem. “There’s this idea that the internet is immaterial, it’s somewhere floating in clouds,” he said. “Of course, it’s a very material thing that uses resources, materials, energy — and quite a lot actually.”

Bitcoin driving huge electricity demand, environmental impact

In a normal year, demand for electric power in Chelan County grows by perhaps 4 megawatts ­­— enough for around 2,250 homes — as new residents arrive and as businesses start or expand. But since January 2017, as Bitcoin enthusiasts bid up the price of the currency, eager miners have requested a staggering 210 megawatts for mines they want to build in Chelan County. That’s nearly as much as the county and its 73,000 residents were already using. And because it is a public utility, the PUD staff is obligated to consider every request.

The scale of some new requests is mind-boggling. Until recently, the largest mines in Chelan County used five megawatts or less. In the past six months, by contrast, miners have requested loads of 50 megawatts and, in several cases, 100 megawatts. By comparison, a fruit warehouse uses around 2.5 megawatts.

Apple in Talks to Buy Cobalt Directly From Miners

Apple Inc. is in talks to buy long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners for the first time, according to people familiar with the matter, seeking to ensure it will have enough of the key battery ingredient amid industry fears of a shortage driven by the electric vehicle boom…

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Energy riches fuel bitcoin craze for speculation-shy Iceland

Iceland is expected to use more energy ‘mining’ bitcoins and other virtual currencies this year than it uses to power its homes.

With massive amounts of electricity needed to run the computers that create bitcoins, large virtual currency companies have established a base in the North Atlantic island nation blessed with an abundance of ‘renewable energy.’

The energy demand has developed because of the soaring cost of producing and collecting virtual currencies. Computers are used to make the complex calculations that verify a running ledger of all the transactions in virtual currencies around the world.

Among the main attractions of setting up bitcoin mines at the edge of the Arctic Circle is the natural cooling for computer servers and the competitive prices for Iceland’s abundance of renewable energy from geothermal and hydroelectric power plants.

Johann Snorri Sigurbergsson, a business development manager at the energy company Hitaveita Sudurnesja, said he expected Iceland’s virtual currency mining to double its energy consumption to about 100 megawatts this year. That is more than households use on the island nation of 340,000, according to Iceland’s National Energy Authority.

Pirate Party legislator McCarthy has questioned the value of bitcoin mining for Icelandic society, saying residents should consider regulating and taxing the emerging industry.

“We are spending tens or maybe hundreds of megawatts on producing something that has no tangible existence and no real use for humans outside the realm of financial speculation,” he said. “That can’t be good.”