Energy Efficiency

Published on March 19th, 2011 | by Susan Kraemer


The World Just Got Back 13 Terawatt Hours of Spam-Wasted Electricity!

March 19th, 2011 by  

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates hasn’t done much for the environment, for a billionaire who’s put real money behind other urgent global problems. But that just changed. Microsoft has just essentially given back to the world about 13 terawatt hours (TWh) of electric power that has been wasted every year – on spam! is reporting that Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, working with federal law enforcement agents, has just brought down the world’s largest spam network, Rustock.

“At its peak, it was a botnet of around 2 million spam-sending zombies capable of sending out 30 billion spam email per day. Microsoft’s wholesale slaughter of Rustock could reduce worldwide spam output by up to 39%.

Rustock was taken down, piece by piece, in a similar way to the Mega-D botnet. First the master controllers, the machines that send out commands to enslaved zombies, were identified. Microsoft quickly seized some of these machines located in the U.S. for further analysis, and worked with police in the Netherlands to disable some of the command structure outside of the U.S”.

More lurid details for geeks at

Spam is not only a big waste of your time, but it is a much bigger waste of a simply staggering amount of global electricity supplies. Transmitting, processing and filtering spam has been estimated by McAfee at taking an astonishing 33 billion kilowatt hours – that’s 33 terawatt hours (TWh) – of the global energy supply, every year!

Enough power, according to McAfee, in their “The Carbon Footprint of Spam” study, to “power 2.4 million homes” – in the first world.

In the third world – where Bill Gates does humanitarian work –  that would go much further, and likely be enough to at least power some lighting for the last 2 billion people in the world that currently do not even have any electricity all.

Or the world could shutter quite a few dirty coal plants.

Cutting 33 terawatt hours of wasted energy worldwide by 39% is very, very, very huge. That’s been one hefty carbon footprint.

So thanks go to Bill Gates: unlikely climate hero!

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

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  • D

    Please avoid the use of terms such as “First World” and “Third World” in the future – the nomenclature of their use is inappropriate.

    Terms such as “Developing Countries” is far more appropriate.

    Thank you

  • It is good when somebody is just even thinking green (= not wasting energy sources, etc). It is not Gates duty to support any of green projects. He is doing that because he is willing to do that. Let’s just agree with any kind of support for environmental programmes.

  • Pingback: SPAM Gets Slammed by Microsoft, World Saves 13 Terawatt Hours of Electricity/Year from It – climate change and environmental news()

  • BlueRock

    Hmmm. It’s certainly good to get this juice ‘back’, but Bill’s ‘generosity’ here is only a by-product of defending M$ interests.

    Also, if you look at the Gates’ Foundation investments – which include ExxonMobil, BP, Peabody Energy, Caterpillar, Goldman Sachs, Daimler, McDonalds, Coca Cola, Walmart and Monsanto – he’s about as far away from “climate hero” as anyone… especially when you consider the massive good he could do with all those billions of $$$s he’s sat on.

    • But what a humongous byproduct! 😉 Let’s hope Microsoft (and the Feds, who helped) now take out the other 41% of spam too!

      • BlueRock

        🙂 True enough – although I haven’t seen spam in a long time since I started using Gmail.

        I should be grateful, but I’m just not a fan of Bill’s – to put it mildly – after suffering the effects of his vicious business practices in years gone past.

        > …humongous…

        That word just doesn’t get the limelight it deserves!

        • Yes, me too. I thought spam had been eliminated by now, so these figures were a shock

  • Adam

    Well done Microsoft.

    By the way you’re wrong about Gates not giving money towards environmental causes. He is working to find a solution to global warming, he just believes that to actually be accepted by the general public it needs to be a business solution that works economically as well as cutting CO2. He is investing billions in a number of projects that try to produce energy without generating CO2. See his TED talk on the subject.

    • Well he has certainly done it by taking down Rustock! I’ll have to check your TED talk for evidence of some action – so far I’ve not encountered any evidence of Gates’ investment in any of the many many viable (and worthy of investment) businesses that are reducing CO2 emissions, and saving money too.

      • Adam

        Thanks for the reply and nice article by the way.

        If you would like some examples just google Bill Gates green investments or Bill Gates Khosla

        • After googling through it more – I see that his approach is not very well informed.

          I really think if he sticks to what he knows, he can do the most. If he takes out the other 41% of spam, that saves the rest of the 33 TWh that it wastes – absolutely gigantic.

      • Adam, you are totally right, I see there are announced investments in the last few months in several green investment vehicles, like Vinod Khosla’s greentech fund, and $50 million (gardeners money) in Sapphire (algae). Thanks for the catch.

        • BlueRock


          I’d be wary of viewing Gates with anything other than suspicion re. climate change – or many of his humanitarian claims. He invests in some of the most polluting, unethical companies on the planet.

          He’s in the Bjorn Lomborg mould for climate change: denial of the severity and fix what problem there is by growing the economy, making more money and finding a magical techno-fix, such as geoengineering. He recommends we need to “research” clean tech instead of urgently deploying what already clearly works now.

          Joe Romm has pulled Gates apart several times – his most recent: – also see related posts at bottom of article.

          I think Gates thinks that all the world’s problems will be solved when everyone is buying stuff from American corporations.

          • Adam

            Completely admitted Bill Gates fan back.

            You’ve been receiving misinformation Bill Gates has publically stated geoengineering isn’t a suitable solution. He has also been directly investing billions in companies that combat climate change.

            This is all verifiable and easily checkable. I’m not asking you to take my word for it. Unlike the rather dubious conspiracy theories you appear to be indulging in.

            He has 30-40 billion dollars invested by professional investors so I’m sure if you really went through it with a fine tooth comb you could find one or two investments you would disagree with, but I bet you can’t find anything significant in terms of the amount he actually has invested when you take into account the size of his portfolio. Unlike the huge amounts he is putting into green investment.

          • I saw $50 million in Sapphire – yes. What else, that is green?

    • Thanks for the info, Adam. From what I have seen of his ideas for addressing global warming, they are pretty nascent and more based in let’s just pump money into R&D continuously than along the lines of what is needed and promoted by those more invested in the matter..

      But nearly anything is a plus these days… (though, he could be doing a ton more)

      • Adam

        Maybe. I’ll be brutally honest and admit I don’t know much about the subject either. I stumbled onto this article because I’m a bit of a Gates fan due to his philanthropy work.

        I do my bit in my personal life though, recycling and using public transport rather than driving.

        This site looks quite interesting I may visit in the future to educate myself a bit.

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