John SheesleyEarlier, I mentioned how big new data centers at Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are going to have a huge environmental impact. For one, Google recently purchased 800 acres of land in Pryor, Oklahoma where it plans to build a $600 million dollar data center. This new center will employ about 200 people and pay them an average of $48,000 a year.

How much power will this new massive data center draw?

Your guess is as good as mine.

As part of the deal, Oklahoma passed a law that exempts large power consumers from its open records law. As soon as a company starts using more than 2.5 megawatts of power, they no longer have to report their power usage to the public. Considering the size of competing data centers that Microsoft and Yahoo have in Washington state that draw over 40 megawatts each, that’s a pretty low threshold.

The idea of course, was to entice Google to locate its center in Oklahoma rather than someplace else. Google considers power usage to be a trade secret and Oklahoma wanted to do everything it could, including allowing Google to shield that information, to get it to locate there. And it worked.

But – is it right? If we’re as concerned about the environment as we’re supposed to be today, I would think we’d want to know who the large energy consumers are. While on one hand governments are encouraging us to swap incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescents – even to the point of banning them, on the other they’re telling companies like Google: “Sure – suck up all the power you want! It’ll be our little secret.” It’s hard to hold people accountable for their usage if there’s a special class that can do as they please.