Rant: Stop saying you’re sustainable

Time for an “old man shouts at clouds” post.

Can we all stop talking out of our arses, please?

So I go on Google’s home page, which I haven’t done for a long time, and they claim “Carbon neutral since 2007.” Really? As the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland said, “A word means what I want it to mean, nothing more, nothing less.”

According to the interwebs, Google’s energy consumption was 12.7 terawatt hours in 2019, up from 2.86 terawatt hours in 2011. So I’m pretty sure that their assertion that they’re carbon neutral is baloney.

For a laugh, I decide to see what that would equate to in terms of solar panels. This wasn’t as easy as it looked, because most of the stats were shoddy, quoting measurements in watts per panel, without specifying the size of the panel, or watts per square meter, without specifying the time. Per day? Per hour? It’s like everybody is doing reporting, but no-one has a clue what they’re actually talking about.

One set of stats I found was that a panel of 1.6m2 with 20% efficiency gettint 4.5 sun hours a day should generate 1.44kW per day (source).

That’s about 1kW per day per meter (1.44/1.6 is nearish 1). Let’s say Google has better panels though, in a sunnier climate. So let’s say 3kW per day per m2.

Now a tera is 10E12. So 2.86 terawatt hours per year works out at 7.8E9W per day(2.86e12/365). That would require solar panels of 2.6E6m2 (7.8E9/3E2), which is 2.6km2.

It turns out that Chelmsford in England is 26.2km2. So basically, you’d have to cover the town of Chelmsford in solar panels to generate that amount of electricity. Sound feasible? Hmmm. (Please do check my maths). If you’ve ever been there, it’s arguably the most productive thing you could do with Chelmsford anyway.

What really makes me laugh, though, is oil companies stating that they’re carbon-neutral. Given that the avowed purpose of their business is to extract hydrocarbons out the ground, it’s difficult to see how they’re talking anything but absolute nonsense.

Look, everything is a process. Processes inevitably produce waste. Even at the microscopic level, our cells produce waste that needs to be removed. The production of waste is as immutable as the law of thermodynamics. Admittedly we can recycle with varying degrees of efficiency, though. But let’s not resort to delusional thinking. Let’s at least be honest and ‘fess up to the fact humans, and all animals produce waste.

About mcturra2000

Computer programmer living in Scotland.
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