On Election Day, a new political issue emerges in Virginia
Plus, why the U.S. wind power slump might not be fatal
In today’s edition:
— From Dublin to Northern Virginia, the surging usage of electricity by global data centers is becoming a hot political issue
— Despite a troubled autumn for major U.S. offshore wind projects, the industry’s promise is still firmly in the Biden’s administration’s long-term plans
— The World Bank’s Ajay Banga just became the worldwide face of climate loss and damages
— Stellantis’ new Ram EV pickup operates a lot like hybrid cars, and that’s a plus for range-focused potential buyers
— The hurricane that flattened Acapulco may have had one of the strongest wind gusts of all time
— Is the agave plant, used to make tequila, California’s new cash crop in a drying world?
— How supply chain issues are holding back the renewable energy transition
Behind the scenes of our Dublin Climate Conference a few weeks ago, in hushed tones, some attendees talked of an emerging climate issue that is only just starting to make the headlines, and which the Irish government is worried about.
Dublin’s status as the data center capital of Europe, with all of the major tech operations of global companies such as Google GOOGL 0.00%↑ and Facebook META 0.00%↑, is starting to cause a power crunch to the Irish grid. A particularly cold winter could cause bottlenecks and ultimately pit tech use of power and water — some data centers use up to five million gallons a day to cool their servers — against everybody else.
From Ireland, I flew to Washington D.C., where I was talking about this with some Callaway Climate Insights subscribers, and I was surprised to learn that Northern Virginia is facing similar issues. That region across the Potomac River from the U.S. capital bills itself as the largest data center operation in the world, claiming up to 70% of all Internet traffic flowing through its servers.
It’s even become an emerging political issue on Election Day this year, with the battle between Democrats and Republicans for control of the Virginia legislature — one of the most prominent battles in the country today — touching on data center energy use as well as other, more traditional issues such as abortion.
Much has been said about the potential and peril of AI, but not enough said about the enormous energy suck of these systems as they develop. Indeed, AI doomsayers could probably imagine an apocalyptic situation in which some rogue system suddenly decides it needs more energy to grow and starts draining grids around the world.
Back in reality, the battle for power and electricity, as well as water, is only starting to emerge on voter minds this Election Day. But as the world gets hotter, and more dependent on tech systems for its energy, an uncomfortable give and take can quickly become a pressing political emergency.
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