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Score one for the do-gooders. But now what?

Dell hits server efficiency--a good first step, but the bigger question of clean technology and curbing data centers' energy output remains a jump ball.

What do you know? The do-gooders had a good idea: A 50 percent reduction in power consumption by computers by the year 2010.

This was a central plank of the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, a nonprofit initiative which is celebrating its one-year anniversary this month. Most of the usual suspects have thrown their support behind the project. (Here's a linkto the full list. These folks aren't signing on out of any woolly eyed desire to save humanity--though that's a nice idea. They're doing it to help their bottom line. (Even better!)

So it is that on Wednesday comes news that Dell has developed a server power supply which complies with the 80 Plus Gold certification. A good first step, though the bigger question of clean technology and the role it might play in helping to curb data centers' energy output remains unclear.

Dell's PR moment is one small advance in the right direction. Unfortunately, data centers haven't been getting any greener. When Earth Day rolled around in April, we reported on a studywhich found that "three-quarters of those surveyed graded themselves a 'C' or worse for green computing, and 65 percent said they lacked precise plans for improvement."

Speak with IT managers and if you can find one reporting that their energy costs are going down, send me their number. But if technology helped get us into this mess, technology is going to pull us out of it (or at least one can hope). The timing on Dell's news was purely happenstance, but I came across two headlines recently which nicely framed the question du jour. The first referred to a report by Cambridge Energy Research Associates, predicting the following: "Response to Global Climate Change to Spur $7 trillion in Clean Energy Investment by the year 2030." The other was a prediction by Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens: World Crude Oil Production has Peaked." (In other words, there ain't a lot of this stuff left in the ground so get ready to pay a lot more--or find viable alternatives.)

Who knows which forecast comes closer to the truth? But clearly, these are extraordinary times with lots of opportunity as well as lots of confusion about where technology's future should head. I suppose all this is good news for clean tech's future, though it seems we've been talking about this "future" for the better part of several years now. What I'm anxious to know is how much longer before its impact really begins to manifest itself in ways which impact the society as well as the global economy? (Next week I'll be moderating a panel discussion on the same subject so if you have any questions or thoughts on the subject, e-mail me at