Intel dropped an “atom bomb” on the server market with the introduction of the Centerton, a sub-10-watt microprocessing chip would perform at much lower levels of energy consumption. The atom-based chip will operate at about 6 watts, less than half the current 15 Watts. Oracle followed quickly with an announcement of a new line of servers based on Intel's new Xeon E5-2600 processors, which feature 3-D transistors. The new systems will either cut costs and energy consumption in the server industry – or, if you believe in Jevons’ Paradox, will be employed for even greater exploitation of Internet and information technology.
The pressure is mounting from both home and abroad for China to do something about coal pollution in its cities. Chinese journalists are now winning awards for highlighting environmental issues and the Internet is being harnessed to the task. The issue of air pollution continues to resonate in the US as well as Texas and several other states take the EPA to court over new regulations of emissions across state lines. The Natural Resources Defense Council also asks if fumes form natural gas fracking are becoming a problem.
Renewable energy had a big year in 2011 but the future does not look as promising. World investment hit a record $263 billion, according to a report from the Pew Clean Energy Program. The US has temporarily replaced China at the top of the heap again in clean energy development. But all this is going to be affected by the withdrawal of clean energy subsidies, both here and abroad. Congress has eliminated the production tax credit for wind and ethanol and Italy and Britain are scaling back its incentives as well. As a result, clean energy investment plunged to a three-year low in the first quarter, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Pakistan continues to show what a real energy crisis can look like as shortages of fuel and electricity reverberate throughout the Punjab. Factories are closing and some homes are getting power cuts for as long as 16 hours a day. There have been mass protests everywhere. The national energy conference convened this week by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani produced a very mixed outcome. No one was particularly satisfied and the main resolution was to spread the pain around. Meanwhile, the Saudis have offered Lahore an energy package in an effort to lure the country away from Iran.
Finally, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its annual awards for Energy Star cities. Los Angeles finished first for the fourth year in a row and Riverside finished ninth. The EPA ranks cities by a simple count of how many buildings in the city have received the Energy Star certification. New York climbed from 10th to 5th and Salt Lake City made the top 25 for the first time. Certification is awarded for consuming 35 percent less energy than the industry average.