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Communications of the ACM

Letters to the editor

Don't Ignore the Cost of 'Embedded Energy'

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I was happy to see Andrew A. Chien's Editor's Letter "Owning Computing's Environmental Impact" (Mar. 2019) addressing the topic of our common responsibility for the ecological cost of our industry but surprised it said nothing about so-called "embedded energy" when exploring the growth of electronic waste. Even if all that waste could be miraculously disposed of properly and recycled, the resulting reduction in the ecological cost of the devices would be small compared to the unrecoverable part of the energy needed to manufacture them in the first place, which for many devices is, according to a number of studies, is greater than all the energy they will consume during their functional lifetimes.

A few pages later, Logan Kugler's news story "Building a Better Battery" about building bigger and more energy-efficient batteries likewise completely overlooked the ecological impact of the batteries themselves.


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