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Net Neutrality Step Aside, Carbon Neutrality Is Moving In

in Smart Grid by

WASHINGTON, November 9, 2009 - While some tech companies have sought to reduce their carbon footprint in the world, a number of them have been reluctant to do this. Instead, they have been buying into environmentally-friendly projects meant to offset their carbon emissions.

While technology companies have considered carbon offset projects, such as investing in a forest sequestration project to balance out there carbon emissions, more are opting to place greater emphasis on developing innovative solutions to reduce energy consumption within company walls.

But companies such as Google and Dell, who have committed themselves to being “carbon neutral,” say that they have needed the carbon offset projects to meet their goals. Other companies, such as Hewlett-Packard and Yahoo, have moved away from offset investments.

Google Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl’s wrote in a blog post in May 2009 that the company has been honoring its 2007 commitment to being “carbon neutral” through calculating its global carbon footprint and purchasing high-quality carbon offsets. “We'll continue to invest in offset projects until we reach carbon neutrality,” read the blog.

However, Google’s blog notes that “While offsets with strong additionality can achieve real emissions reductions in unregulated sectors at a relatively low cost, we view them as a short-term solution for Google, not as a substitute for other action.”

The company said that offsets “provide a way for us to take responsibility for our emissions now, while we continue to advocate the development of utility-scale renewable energy. Current standards for offsets require a significant amount of work to evaluate the quality of each offset project and ensure that projects go beyond ‘business as usual.’ Stronger additionality standards - that are more stringent, clear, and objective - would also make it simpler for corporations like Google to use offsets as part of an overall strategy to neutralize emissions.”

Google said it plans to continue to purchase offsets but will focus on engineering technology solutions, using on-site renewable energy to power its facilities and look to design more energy efficient data centers.
Dell said in a September 2009 release that it has reduced its net greenhouse gas emissions by more than 18 percent in its fiscal year 2009 over fiscal year 2008.

The company has been reducing its total electricity consumption, using renewable energy sources and investing in carbon offsets.

Dell “offsets its remaining carbon impact by purchasing credible, third-party-verified renewable energy credits. This investment helped the company become the only company in the computer industry to achieve operational carbon neutrality in August 2008, five months ahead of schedule,” according to the company’s statement.

But while Google and Dell continue to invest in carbon offset projects, Yahoo announced this year that it will no longer purchase any offsets and HP spoke critically of them in its blog.

Yahoo’s David Filo wrote in a June blog entry that the company would stop investing in carbon offset projects. “Reducing our carbon footprint has always been a priority and we’ve decided to focus all our energy and investment on that philosophy. We will no longer purchase carbon offsets as announced in 2007.” Filo said his company plans to focus on reducing its own carbon impact by creating highly-efficient data centers.

According to a September blog entry from Hewlett-Packard, “A number of electronic companies have claimed to be "carbon neutral" at this point in time” and claim to “achieve this through the use of Carbon offset which are actually put in question by a number of studies.”

Another entry from the blog, which is generated by a team of members of HP’s global manufacturing and distribution industries, continues that, “HP's progress on the green front “is due to its long term commitment to reducing the environmental footprint of all its operations, and not based on carbon offset or any other substitution program.”

The Broadband Breakfast Club

Editor’s Note: Join the next Broadband Breakfast Club on Tuesday, November 10, 2009, when a panel of experts - including Jennifer Alcott, Telework!VA Program Manager, Commonwealth of Virginia; Kevin Moss, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, BT Americas; Steven Ruth, Professor, George Mason University School of Public Policy; and Donald L. Thoma, Executive Vice President Marketing, Iridium - will discuss "Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan: The Environment."

Among the questions to be considered are how carbon-positive a technology is broadband? What's keeping telecommuting from being more widely adopted as a technology? What are the other "green" benefits of broadband communication, and how can the National Broadband Plan best encourage them? Register at

Winter covered technology policy issues for five-and-a-half years as a reporter for the National Journal Group. She has worked for USA Today, the Washington Times, the Magazine Group, the State Department’s International Visitor’s Program, and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. She also taught English at a university in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

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