With its many servers, Google devours electricity. And with search queries growing by 50%, it's only getting hungrier. The solution? Drill a two-mile-deep hole in the Earth, extracting geothermal energy and possibly destroying San Francisco with a terrible earthquake.
The AltaRock project north of San Francisco is hardly Google's first foray into electricity production; the company has hydroelectric projects scattered across the country.
But AltaRock is special, what with its capacity for triggering deadly seismic activities. With investors like Google, Kleiner Perkins and the federal government, it's no wonder the company has, according to the New York Times, denied an inconvenient truth: that a similar geothermal project in Basel, Switzerland "set off an earthquake, shaking and damaging buildings and terrifying many" in December 2006, according to Swiss government seismologists cited by the Times.
And, yes, it could happen here:
Seismologists have long known that human activities can trigger quakes, but they say the science is not developed enough to say for certain what will or will not set off a major temblor.
It's been easy for politicians to convince themselves that what's good for Google — a high-paying employer that doesn't make its money polluting — is good for their communities. That's an assumption they may have to shake off.