A recent paper of Andrew Odlyzko of the Digital Technology Center at the University of Minnesota discusses “the Internet’s role in aggravating and alleviating the energy crises”. The article points out that, since the days of the horse-drawn coach and the penny post in England, people have believed that travel and communications would be substitutes, i.e. an increase in one would result in a decrease in the other. Nevertheless, history has shown that both travel and communications have grown in parallel with economic growth and have been complementing and stimulating each other. This has happened despite – and even because of – technological developments in each of these two areas.
One could conclude from past experience, therefore, that the Internet – as a new form of communication – would cause a continued increase in travel, leading to ever-greater consumption of energy. The article highlights, however, that there is a key difference between the current situation and the past: the very high and growing price of energy. Because of this unique context, the article concludes that the Internet - and greater broadband deployment - may actually bring about a reduction in energy consumption by helping to reduce the need for travel as well as by bringing about other efficiencies.
To read the full article, click here.