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Congress: Buy energy-efficient servers now

Tech firms have stressed energy efficiency for years. Now politicians have discovered the concept.

Congress wants you to buy more energy-efficient computer servers.

It's no joke. The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation instructing Americans to "give high priority to energy efficiency as a factor in determining best value and performance for purchases of computer servers."

But what official Washington is belatedly discovering is hardly new to technology companies, which have tried to boost efficiency in servers since at least as long ago as 2001. Higher efficiency not only reduces electricity bills, it also offers lower cooling costs, so server buyers have long had a strong market incentive to go green.

Sun Microsystems, for instance, sells servers outfitted with a low-power "CoolThreads" microprocessor that uses less power than an average light bulb. Intel's "Woodcrest" and "Montecito" generation of processors will both consume about 30 watts less than their predecessor models. Sun, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Advanced Micro Devices, Dell and others have even created an association called The Green Grid to promote power efficiency.

Nevertheless, Washington politicians voted 417-4 on Wednesday to tell American purchasing managers that it's in their "best interests" to pay attention to energy conservation.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, also directs the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a three-month study "of the growth trends associated with data centers and the utilization of servers in the federal government and private sector."

Rogers has made energy issues a focus, taking credit for helping to create a $3.7 billion hydrogen fuel program and backing ethanol use. His Web site

Technology companies were quick to use the news of the House vote as a mechanism to tout the energy efficiency of their products.

HP said in an e-mail message to CNET "HP's innovative leadership in energy research over the past 12 years has led to its holistic Power and Cooling approach, delivering an energy efficient adaptive infrastructure comprising both products and services to the marketplace."

A Sun representative added in a separate e-mail: "Sun's Eco-Responsibility initiative is aggressively focused on reducing environmental impact by designing products that use less power, using less harmful materials, and encouraging reuse and recycling in our industry."