No industrial smokestacks rise from that cute Google logo, but each click of the search button takes an environmental toll, Harper's reports. Google and its competitors are guzzling electricity to power ever-larger server complexes, and a renewable-energy initiative is more about making amends than benevolence. A new taxpayer-subsidized Google center along Oregon’s Columbia River will likely use a Tacoma-sized chunk of power.
Despite creating no more than 200 jobs, Google has lined up local infrastructure, Oregon tax breaks, and federally subsidized ultra-cheap power. And as the tech giants fight for the most computing power, they’re moving abroad and taking advantage of dirtier energy sources. Microsoft, AT&T, and Google all have overseas data centers whose power comes mostly from fossil fuels.