Out of Control Policy Blog

Is Your Web Site Eco-Friendly?

For a bit of Friday silliness, check out BusinessWeek Online's story of how Web designers are joining the eco-correctness fad by designing sites to use dark colors, which they believe prevents global warming because black supposedly requires less power than white to display on a computer monitor.

This started earlier this year when Google, whose home page is largely bright white, came in for a scolding for this reckless contribution to global warming.

The online buzz over "going dark" began in earnest last January after Mark Ontkush, a self-described "green computing evangelist," wrote a blog post concerning environmentally friendly Web design. Ontkush claimed that if a popular site such as Google switched its home page background color from white to black, it could save hundreds of megawatt hours a year. He based his claim on the fact that certain types of monitors use less energy to display black than white screens. And according to the Environmental Protection Agency, cathode-ray-tube (CRT) monitors and even some flat-panel screens use less energy to display black or dark backgrounds.

BusinessWeek reports Ontkush's blog triggered the creation of a bunch of search sites using black backgrounds. But with knock-off names such as Blackle and DarkGoogle, many others believed that the whole eco-web site thing was an elaborate April Fool's joke.

No so. And in today's highly charged debate about climate change, a major corporation, especially one like Google that strives for liberal cred, can't take such accusations lying down. And, upon closer examination, as is prone to happen with many so-called "green" claims about energy consumption, much is exaggerated, if not wrong.

Google's green energy czar [?!] Bill Weihl wrote that the flat-panel computer screens most common in the U.S. don't save energy displaying black backgrounds. Weihl referred to a test run by an Australian electronics graduate student comparing the power consumption of Blackle and Google on 27 different monitors. On average, CRT monitors saved 10.8 watts per hour using Blackle.

However, liquid-crystal display (LCD) monitors largely used the same or, in several cases, several watts more energy to display the black background. The results were published Aug. 8 on Australian tech news site Techlogg. "We applaud the spirit of the idea, but our own analysis as well as that of others shows that making the Google home page black will not reduce energy consumption," wrote Weihl.


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