President George W. Bush has signed legislation directing the Environmental Protection Agency to study energy use in data centers.

The bill, passed by the Senate on December 8th, authorizes the EPA to analyze the growth of energy consumption at data centers. The issue is a growing concern to companies that operate large groups of servers, storage devices and other computer equipment. Many data center operators find that the cost of electricity and air conditioning that keeps servers cool rivals the cost of the servers themselves.

The EPA study should help to promote more energy-efficient solutions across the high technology industry, said Steve Kester, manager of the government relations division at Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), a maker of server (and desktop) processors and one of several high technology companies endorsing the bill.

"We're very pleased that the administration sees this as important," Kester said. The EPA study is expected to take about six months and could result in the agency's establishing measurements to judge the energy efficiency of servers, processors and other data center equipment.

AMD hosted a forum Dec. 6 at its headquarters in Sunnyvale, California, with the U.S. Department of Energy and representatives of major technology companies, including Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Intel Corp. The DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy called the gathering a "tech industry working group" to exchange ideas on energy conservation.

Why on earth should the Kyoto-unfriendly Bush administration sign such legislation? Especially when it smacks of marketing by server processor and system suppliers with low power products to push.

Original reporting by Robert Mullins, IDG News Service