MacTel's carbon footprint

MacTel's carbon footprint

Summary: Compared to the PPC alternative, Apple's x86 commitment results in high power usage - producing additional greenhouse gases equivelent to a 38 mile long column of SUV's mving, 100 feet apart, at 60 MPH -24x7x365.

TOPICS: Processors, Laptops

Here's the "Future" paragraph from an open letter, signed by Steve Jobs and posted on Apple's site on May 2nd, discussing steps Apple has taken, or is taking, to develop and hold a green advantage over competitors including HP and Dell.


Today is the first time we have openly discussed our plans to become a greener Apple. It will not be the last. We will be providing updates of our efforts and accomplishments at least annually, most likely around this time of the year. And we plan to bring other environmental issues to the table as well, such as the energy efficiency of the products in our industry. We are also beginning to explore the overall carbon 'footprint' of our products, and may have some interesting data and issues to share later this year.

As almost everyone knows the current Macs use Intel Core Duo architecture processors - ranging in power demand from a claimed 31 watts for the low end of the laptop line to well over 180 watts at the high end of the desktop line.

Now, for fun, lets imagine that Apple hadn't gone to Intel but had, instead, accepted either P.A. Semi's low power design or gone with Freescale's offer to expedite production of the MPC8641D and its 64bit e700 series successors, while filling out its 2006 laptop production with IBM's low wattage 970FX.

That would have let Apple maintain its traditional cost, performance, and reliability advantages over Wintel while, more importantly for today, also giving it a significant energy use advantage. Thus the MPC is a true "system on a chip" with more built in functionality than the Core Duos, but runs at much lower power:


The MPC8641D processor integrates two e600 cores, each scaling up to 1.5 GHz, two memory controllers, Gigabit Ethernet controllers, serial RapidIO technology, PCI Express I/O interface and an MPX bus that scales to 667 MHz -all at just 15 watts of power dissipation.

A bit less than half of Apple's Macintosh sales are desktops, the rest laptops. The most conservative thing on the laptops is to assume that they all exceed the imaginary PPC alternative by just the minimal 16 watts processor difference, and, similarly, that the desktops exceed it by only the 47 watt announced low end processor difference - making the "fleet" average difference a minimum of about 31 watts per usage hour.

What this means is that, at the very least, the six million Apple computers being sold in this fiscal year would be burning 186,000KW per hour less power if Apple had not switched to Intel's x86 products.

If we make another heroic but conservative assumption: that the average machine is run only seven hours a day, five days a week; we can conclude that the difference comes to about 338 gigawatt-hours per year.

According to U.S. department of energy data, burning coal to generate electricity produces about 2.11 pounds of CO2 emissions per KWH generated - so the lowest possible estimate for the additional greenhouse gas burden imposed on the planet by Apple's decision to prefer x86 over PPC is about 357,000 tons per year.

At not quite a thousand tons a day - think of it as about what a column of SUVs 100 feet apart and 38 miles long run 24/7 at 60MPH would produce - this doesn't amount to much on the scale of Mt. St. Helens. Remember, however, that these are rock bottom guesti-ti-mates with more realistic ones easily reaching a million tons a year - and then think about Al Gore, the political star on Apple's board.

Given his political posture you'd think he'd have raised the greenhouse gas issue with Jobs and perhaps even resigned in protest over the Intel decision, but he didn't. Instead, it's my understanding that Gore not only voted for the MacTel switch, but actively campaigned on Intel's behalf prior to the vote -meaning that Apple's next "green letter" should perhaps explain Mr. Gore's enthusiastic support for a move which not only hurt U.S. economic diversity, but is directly responsible for pouring at least another three hundred and fifty thousand tons of green house gases into our atmosphere each year.


Topics: Processors, Laptops

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  • I wonder who came up with ACP and ACPI

    ACP is a standard that was jointly developed by Intel and Microsoft

    ACPI is a standard that was jointly developed by Intel, Microsoft, Toshiba, HP and Pheonix BIOS.

    Incase if you are wondering what ACP and ACPI are, they are the industry standard interface for power conservation

    I dont see any IBM, SUN, RedHat involved anywhere in any power conservation.

    To top it off Windows offers the best power management features of any OS out there.

    I dont see any Linux providing DECENT power conservation at all eg does not support hibernation.

    Below is a link that shows a chart which displays the power consumption of CPU's and I think if you can read English you'll see x86 use less power than PowerPC.

    Clearly shows that *nix people are just FUDsters who dont do anything useful but just sit around and complain about others and worse off lie about others.
    • some links,,50_2330_9863_13022^13060,00.html
    • Linux not supporting hibernation?

      [i]"I dont see any Linux providing DECENT power conservation at all eg does not support hibernation."[/i]

      Actually Linux [b]DOES[/b] support hibernation, and also suspend/standby/sleep (whatever you want to call it), very well. I've run linux on my laptop for over a year and they both have worked flawlessly. Maybe you just haven't tried any recent releases of linux.
      • so they copied another Microsoft innovation

        However they might have copied the hibernation feature which is also called S4 state in the ACPI specification.

        s1 - full power on
        s4 - hibernation

        However I dont think they have all the inbetween states implemented. Looks like they are still seeing how it works on Windows before copying and making it work in Linux.
  • IBM - the company with no morals

    PowerPC requires almost the same amount of power as x86. There is no benefit or power savings from PowerPC.

    However buying something from IBM, there is no way I would do something so foolish until their CEO and top management is laid off.

    There is no need to layoff the 100,000 people. Just layoff the CEO and their top management.
    • IBM - the company with no morals

      What kind of an idiot writes (or believes) this stuff? A quick check of shows they currently have 355766 employees WORLDWIDE. This includes all of research, development, manufacturing, software, marketing and sales, service, financing, global services, HQ, etc. This clown is claiming that of those 355766 people, 300000 of them are in IGS in the US? If he can't even get some basic numbers correct, how can you believe anything else he writes?
    • umm - no

      1) that's 15 watts for the system on a chip vs a minimum of 31 watts for a CPU only - so PPC is lower poower.

      Other comparisons, for example that wikopedia entry, compare chips from 2002 to chips from 2006/7 - and intentional or not that's extremely misleading.

      2) I thought cringley went off the deep end on this one; that's not unusual for them, but there's usually some truth in what he says - so maybe he skipped a decimal?
      • IBM is a bureaucracy

        1) compare similar chips.
        Comparing a server chip with a mobile chip isnt fair. x86 does have low power consuming a low as 6W

        2) You're complaining that Cringley went off the deep end. Dont you realize you keep going off the deep end every other article.

        Reality about competitiveness about IBM is right here
        IBM is the most bureaucratic IT company out there. They cant compete on efficiency and hence they play politics.
  • Think of all the energy saved if you didn't post the article

    All those computers running for several minutes while readers pondered the
    implications of going Intel on global climate change. You can image how many
    pounds of carbon that cost.

    Apple has TWICE had to deal with the implications of choosing an architecture that
    was a dead-end. Maybe the company's ability to compete with Intel-based
    computers was a consideration in choosing that platform. After all, if Apple sold
    NO computers, we wouldn't have to consider this at all.

    The performance of those other chips or those other companies' ability to delivery
    improvements is purely speculative. Motorola/IBM made a lot of great promises
    and projections and you see where that left Apple. One other thing, what is all
    this talk about the supposed cost advantages of the PowerPC chips? I never saw
    that borne out. The PowerPCs were supposed to be cooler-running, does that
    explain why those last PowerMac G5s had 30 pounds of heat sinks, liquid-cooling,
    and all those other tricks that Intel machines have never needed?
    • Gee 5

      [...does that
      explain why those last PowerMac G5s had 30 pounds of heat sinks,...]

      Apple pleaded with IBM for a low power version of G5 - and IBM was too busy with their Power 5, Cell and Xenon projects.
      Roger Ramjet
      • And issued the 970FX low power

        2+Ghz machine the week Jobs made his announcement.

        As I've argued elsewhere it's my belief that IBM wanted to force
        Apple onto Cell - where IBm controls the technology - and away from PPC -where Apple still has rights.
  • Just think of all the carbon offsets

    Al Gore will have to buy from himself.
    middle of nowhere
    • If Al had to plant trees himself...

      ... in order to obtain the carbon offset, one would soon see a brief documentary in which Al explains scientifically that the trees have already been planted because he wanted it so.
      Anton Philidor
      • re If Al had to plant trees himself

        When he was done, you wouldn't be able to tell Al from the forest!
        M.R. Kennedy
  • You're citing a google search now?

    " 31 watts for the low end of the laptop line to well over 180 watts at the high end of the desktop line."

    There are no 180 watt parts in server or desktop. Max for either AMD or Intel is 130 watt.
    • Hey george - what's 2 x 95?

      let me work it out for you: 180.
      • after the idiocy discount

        LOL.. (hung by my own petard! )
  • Carbon footprints. The real issues ...

    Some time ago I really got worried about the little things that combined form a huge energy waste.

    Like overpowered PSU, office light bulb, software running consuming power for nothing.
    Well, all those together multiplied by a factor on several hundred million PC's out there make a huge difference.
    They are combined a tremendous energy waste.

    In this latest month however I came to realize that this sort of possible savings is nothing more them a drop in ocean of waste.

    A PC/Mac/whatever will consume something like 150-180W with the monitor turned on.
    This is 0.18KW.

    Next week I have to make some voyages that will account for something like 550Km in one day and another 400Km.
    All due to simply not having 5 computers connected to the net!

    What does this mean in terms of Carbon footprint is Huge.

    At a rate very very low of about 6L per 100Km this means 57L of diesel.

    The problem is that the overwhelming majority of those 57L is waste.
    Moreover the impact of this is huge in terms of carbon emissions.

    Considering that 1KW = 1.34Hp, this means that usual cars have around 75Hp = +/- 56KW.

    This means that I will stay driving for about say 6+4 hours.
    On average this means the car will be running at say to simplify 30KW => 300KWh of energy in the two trips. (motor never goes to full top power and top rotation)

    This means that the energy waste, not to mention the Time waste for me is Huge.
    With that same amount of energy the 5 PC's would be able to run for about 333.33Hours.

    This is the real Problem in todays CO2 emissions.
    The majority of service sector activities can be made with No displacement of their workers from home and back everyday!
    If we can build a secure, high bandwidth and available network this can be done.
    Even using video to maximize adoption and make the work environment more like a distribute office ... this is perhaps a change needed for the closed mind managers to realize this is possible.
    The way to go is the remote work, home based, with Huge, and I mean Huge gains in productivity and efficiency.
    The irrational behavior we see today with hundreds of Millions of people back and forward from home to work is the main cause of waste and pollution.
    Entire activity sectors like IT, banking, insurance, sales, CRM departments in any sector, and others like those can be reduce CO2 emission if a decent Telecom network is available.
    Actually making simple calculations that is not even difficult from the technical standpoint.
    Overall Productivity gains alone can pay a Fully Fiber Optical until everyone home with 30-40Mbps + and the respective network Maintenance Costs in Any country in a matter of days.

    For those of us who work in the cities it is easy to realize the gains in not having displacements.
    A friend of mine takes 2.2Hours/day (home-office-home) just in transportation.
    This means = 2.2 X 5 days X 4 weeks X 11 Months = 484 Hours per year!
    In every year he looses completely wasted making nothing in the middle of scrap metal like him: 20.167 Days!!!

    20 Days per year!!
    In 10 years this means a Complete year is lost!

    This is the direct impact of transportation! Huge inefficiency, waste, CO2 emissions.
    In terms of energy this usually means something like 300 times whatever the energy of his computer makes working at home ...

    (a car with 75Hp = 56KW, a computer 0.18KW means Powercar/Powerpc = 311 times more energy required ... of course with the same usage time on both machines)

  • Article way out-of-line!


    for the real facts - and how to actually write a proper technology article.

  • Even if your numbers were true...

    ...(which of course they aren't), you're saying one SUV running below top speed
    consumes as much power as 3000 Macs running flat out. But Macs rarely run above
    idle for more than 1% of the day, and any electricity from a nuclear power station
    would have zero carbon footprint anyway.

    And BTW, kilowatts are a measure of power; kilowatt hours ar a measure of energy.
    The reference to "186,000KW per hour" is meaningless and shows a fundamental
    lack of understanding of the terms, let alone the actual subject.