Energy Requirements of Digital Media
Digital media such as computers, eBooks, I-pods, cell phones, game consoles, telecommunication networks, and data centers have huge energy requirements that cause massive deforestation, environmental destruction, and ecological imbalance, much more than what manufacturing paper does to the environment. The increased energy requirements stem not just from usage of such devices but also from manufacturing such devices.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the electricity consumed by data centers alone doubled from 2000 to 2006, reaching more than 60 billion kilowatt hours per year, roughly equal to the amount of electricity used by 559,608 homes in one year. The Environment Protection Agency estimates that this figure will double again in 2011.
The power plants that supply such energy requirements operate on coal. Mountaintop-removal coal mining causes deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and pollution in a big way, besides lung cancer, heart disease and other ailments to the local populace. Coal fired power plants emit sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere, causing acid rain that destroys extensive tracts of deciduous forests, game, wildlife, and rich biodiversity.
The obvious solution is the use of green energy sources such as adopting green technologies in computing, substituting forest biomass powered by forest bio-refineries as an alternative to coal based plants, and deploying renewable energy sources such as wind turbines and solar power. Such improvements are however still many years away.