Is your iPhone running? Better shut it off, because that device is using more energy than your refrigerator. A new report says that a fridge uses just 322 kWh per year, compared with the 361 kWh for an iPhone, if you include its wireless connections, data usage, and battery charges, the Breakthrough Institute reports. But that's nothing compared to information and communications technology worldwide, which uses 10% of global electricity—and that's a low estimate. New trends like wireless broadband could make the figure even higher.
The information sector relies heavily on coal power, and differs from other energy leeches because the cloud is never turned off, making it hard to reduce electricity use and carbon emissions. The study, sponsored by the coal and mining industry, notes that change is unlikely in the near future. But the Breakthrough Institute notes we badly need cleaner alternatives, and Bryan Walsh at Time agrees: "We already have a gigantic digital cloud, and it's only going to get bigger," he writes. "What we need is a cleaner one." (Read more information technology stories.)