The attack on Google
"Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research," according to an article in London's The Sunday Times, leaning on data from a Harvard physicist to show the environmental impact that Google is having on the planet.
Because blogs and news-sniffing hounds know better than to take Sunday off, many helped spread those claims with incendiary headlines.
- Carbon Cost of Google Revealed -- BBC
- Signs of Armageddon: We're worrying about CO2 emissions of a Google search -- ZDNet's Between the Lines
- Are We Killing the Planet One Google Search at a Time -- TechCrunch
How late into the new trading week would Google respond, if it acknowledged the claims at all?
Oh, apparently Google knows better than to take Sunday off, too. It fired back with an official response on its blog last night.
The Google empire strikes back
The world's leading search engine knows better than to take shots lying down. It has a reputation to keep up, just as Baidu.com
Google repudiates the extravagance of the claim. The average Google search doesn't suck up seven grams of carbon dioxide. It is closer to 0.2 grams. It then goes on to spell out its eco-friendly initiatives, including its clean-energy strategies and its philanthropic efforts through Goolge.org.
And in a brilliant twist to win over the masses, Google also points out how the old way to ferret out information was to take the exhaust-puffing jalopy out to the local library. Google didn't use those exact words, but it's the right image to convey when battling a credibility attack.
Search under fire
Google points to its energy-efficient data centers and quick response times in its response. In other words, Google is a company that knows how to market itself even when it's under attack.
One can always counter that our appetite for information wasn't the same before the Web. If I were at a loss over who played Florida Evans on Good Times, I would never dream of driving out to a local bookstore. I would simply forget about it or call up a friend who was a card-carrying member of the Esther Rolle Fan Club.
Google -- or even distant search engine rivals like Yahoo!
The reality is that the Internet isn't making us gunk up the planet as much as it's simply opening up our appetite for information. With access at our keyboard-pecking fingertips, inquisitiveness is easily rewarded. Is that so bad? Is Google really an energy-sucking beast?
I'm not suggesting that carbon footprints don't matter. I just think that it's one of those things where the moment you start to break down everything from the CO2 price of watching a YouTube clip to having your newspaper delivered in the morning, a misguided concept starts to overtake enlightenment and entertainment.
Let's defend the search engines, but from a different vantage point. Google derives roughly 99% of its revenue from online advertising. Yahoo!, Microsoft, and IAC rely a little less on sponsorships, given their subscriber offerings, but it's still a big piece of the online revenue mix. Paid search is a win-win deal because it's a high-margin product for the search engine and a cost-effective platform for the advertiser.
What is the environmental impact of an advertiser turning to print spots, billboards, and broadcast sponsorships to generate leads? Isn't it greater than the paid search solution? I don't have the answers, but where do you go with these questions?
Search engines, right? Harvesting inquisitive minds -- as long as it's not relatively detrimental to the world we live in -- shouldn't be a bad thing.
Kudos to Google for fighting back so quickly, but in reality it has more ammo than it may even know.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz wonders why everyone is hating on Google these days. Let him know in the comment box below. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.