NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Environment's Best Friends

April 17, 2000

Technology is doing more to improve the environment than all of the Environmental Protection Agency regulations put together. And the Internet promises vastly greater improvements in the future, according to a new study from the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions, "The Internet Economy and Global Warming" by Joseph Romm.

Romm documents a myriad of ways in which the Internet is saving energy, the main source of greenhouse gases, and will save even more in the future.

  • For example, selling goods over the Internet saves the need to build new retail stores.
  • Sending files via e-mail saves paper and energy that would otherwise be expended on mail delivery.
  • Indeed, paper savings alone are estimated to reduce total industrial energy consumption by 0.25 percent within three years.

The growth of home offices, with telecommuting via phone, fax and e-mail, cuts down on gasoline consumption and the need for new roads. The Internet also cuts down on business inventories and the need for new factories and office buildings.

It is not just the Internet, but economic growth that is spurring energy savings. New cars are far more fuel-efficient and cleaner to run than the same vehicles built just a few years ago. Similarly, new appliances operate on a fraction of the energy needed to run older ones. A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas points out that today's refrigerators use just one-third the electricity of those built in 1972.

Thus, as people become wealthier and buy new goods, they are also increasing energy efficiency and reducing pollution. Conversely, that is why pollution is greatest where there is poverty.

In short, growth, wealth and technology are the environment's best friends.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, April 17, 2000.


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