This is a fantastic column and analogy from Dr. Boudreaux. Definitely read it all, it’s brief. (pic via Wiki)
The allegations from the NYT columnist are similar to those I hear from others that the plastic in water bottles is “wasted” somehow.
Stop Wasting Your Time Reporting. Start Doing!: Using lots of ink to argue that the Internet wastes lots of energy, James Glanz manages only to demonstrate confusion over the difference between “use” and “waste” (“Power, Pollution and the Internet,” Sept. 23). Intense amounts of the former do not imply the existence of the latter.
Consider, for example, Mr. Glanz’s claim that “Online companies typically run their facilities at maximum capacity around the clock, whatever the demand…. The inefficient use of power is largely driven by a symbiotic relationship between users who demand an instantaneous response to the click of a mouse and companies that put their business at risk if they fail to meet that expectation.”
True. But if enough consumers “demand an instantaneous response to the click of mouse,” energy used by online companies to keep servers running at peak capacity isn’t wasted; it is, instead, used to satisfy consumers’ demand for 24/7/365 fast Internet service – demand that is high yet unpredictable from minute-to-minute.
Dr. Boudreaux finishes the post with this gem.
“A further point: Should we conclude that the ink and wood pulp used by the NYT to print this long report for its many subscribers who don’t read this report were “wasted”? Is it the case that a non-wasteful NYT would print and deliver this report only to those subscribers that it knows will read it?”
Zing! That was a fine dressing-down.