What would happen if the Internet suddenly were powered only with “renewable” energy? Let’s imagine what the impact would be in a place like Ontario.
First, customer contact centres at companies like Rogers (my Internet provider) would be swamped with calls from initially testy then angry then frantically-desperate-enraged customers demanding to know precisely how long they would have to wait, with their lives on hold, before rock-solid 24/7 internet service was restored.
Wikipedia: “I know everything”
Facebook: “I know everyone”
Google: “I can find everything”
The Internet: “Without me, you guys are nothing”
The Electric Grid: “Kids… ”
The Internet providers’ call centre staff would, rightly, hot-potato the issue and tell customers to call those who are more directly connected with the problem, i.e. those in the electric power industry. They would quickly become able to recite at will the telephone numbers of people in the customer contact centre at the electric utility that served the customer.
From there, the customer call experience would proceed along the following lines:
- The utility call centre people would likewise hot-potato the issue and tell callers to get in touch with the Ontario Energy Board (the organization that regulates the electric power industry in Ontario).
- The OEB would hot potato the customer to the office of the provincial Energy minister, who after being utterly overwhelmed would punt off to the premier herself.
- The premier’s staff would then face a nightmare deluge of infuriated Internet customers demanding rock-solid 24/7 electricity, just like they had in the good old days. Watergate would look like a Jerky Boys crank call by comparison.
The above-described likely reaction to a less-than-100-percent-reliable Internet describes perfectly (if I may say so myself) how things would play out if the organization behind the Leap Manifesto got its way and Canadian provinces and territories moved to a 100 percent “renewable energy” electric grid.
Why would the customers of Internet providers react so viscerally if the Internet suddenly became “renewable” powered, as the Leap Manifesto co-signers demand? Because the Internet runs on electricity. The reason the Internet is so ubiquitous is because the innumerable servers around the world that make it work run on 24/7 electricity. They do not run on renewable energy. No server in the world does. No, servers all across the world run on electricity from electric grids that are powered by machines that run 24/7.
Take e-commerce. Let’s say you’re a best-selling Canadian author who happens to be a Leap Manifesto co-signer and, moving with the times, you sell your books through iTunes, among other e-commerce vehicles. (I mean, iTunes is so convenient, and cheap—they’ve cut out all that nuisance human labour that is involved in bookstores and other dinosaur-economy relics.) Never mind that you specialize in anti-corporate screeds, that you make a big deal out of supporting the same labour that is cut out of iTunes, and that you fulminate in print against Big American Multinationals. Never mind that these Big American Multinationals ought to include Apple (the company through which you sell your books on iTunes) and Amazon (the company whose massive server farms host services like iCloud, another Apple product).
Forget about these irrelevant details and just think: what would be the impact on sales of your book through iTunes if Amazon’s gigantic server farms, currently located in the U.S. state of Virginia, which makes most of its electricity in coal and nuclear plants, suddenly switched to only renewables?
Think about that as you wait on hold, fingers impatiently drumming the desk, while some twenty-something in the premier’s office tries to find the number to somebody in Virginia who’d be better able to answer your question of why Amazon’s server farm is experiencing so many power blackouts and brownouts, affecting your e-sales.