Dell goes green

SEATTLE (AP) - Computers are far from being truly clean machines, but Dell Inc. and other PC makers are trying to make their own business operations greener. Dell said Wednesday its facilities worldwide are now carbon neutral, a goal the Round Rock, Texas-based company had set to achieve by the end of 2008. Dane Parker, its director for environment, health and safety, said Dell buys renewable energy - including wind, solar and methane gas - directly from utilities to fulfill one-fifth of its energy needs. There is not enough green energy available for all of Dell's requirements, so for the other 80 percent, Dell buys regular "brown" power, Parker said, plus enough renewable energy credits to offset that power's carbon emissions. Those credits subsidize purchases of renewable energy by other organizations, in places where more green power is available. Dell's preference for renewable energy isn't just about global warming or public rel! ations. Buying green power at a predictable cost can serve as a hedge against rising oil prices. The company also said it has cut its energy use with more efficient lighting, modern climate control systems and software that shuts off idle office computers after hours, for a savings of $3 million a year, or about 5 percent of its annual energy bill. Dell isn't the first company to declare its operations carbon neutral, but it's the first global high-tech player to do so, said Stephen Stokes, a climate change and business analyst for AMR Research. "They do deserve some congratulations," Stokes said, noting that the company took steps beyond just buying energy credits. "Even if you were the worst carbon emitter in the world, if you wrote a huge check ... you could claim to be carbon neutral," he said. Dell, the world's second-largest computer company, also is ahead of No. 1 PC maker Hewlett-Packard Co. on this matter. HP said in 2007 it purchased ! credits to offset 2 percent of its worldwide energy use, and bought gr een power for a relatively small portion of its operations. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company did say that its energy consumption fell 4 percent in 2007, and that it is consolidating its power-sucking computer clusters known as data centers. Parker said Dell still aims to make products in a more environmentally sensitive manner and to increase electronics recycling. "This is not a get-out-of-jail-free card," he said.

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