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Streaming video is so convenient. The days of getting into a car and driving to the video store to peruse VHS tapes and later DVDs seem long ago. Now we just stay home and push a button. Avoiding a trip to store has led many to claim that streaming video is eco-friendly. However, getting all of those digital bits to your computer or connected TV does not come free in energy terms.

The internet in its physical form is a humungous network of cables, routers, servers, data centers, and other equipment, all of which require electric power to operate. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimated in 2016 that running the U.S. portion of the internet used nearly 2% of our entire electricity supply. Watching one hour of streaming video uses the equivalent energy of a delicious 8-oz. gasoline martini.[1]


[1] Shehabi, A., B. Walker, and E. Masanet. 2014. The energy and greenhouse-gas implications of internet video streaming in the United States. Environmental Research Letters, 9(5): 054007.

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