IT industry uses as much energy as airlines

SAP chief executive Leo Apotheker was in town today to speak about how companies and governments can become more sustainable, eco-friendly and efficient. To him, the answer is technology. Software can help regulate energy use and cloud computing can cut down on expenses.

But he also pointed out that the technology industry itself isn't so green. The IT industry, he said, has the same carbon footprint as the airline industry.

Earlier this month President Obama signed an executive order that set sustainability goals for federal agencies (for example, agencies are required to reduce their water use by 26 percent by 2020.)

Cloud computing has been pitched as a way to become more efficient, but it relies on giant data servers that guzzle electricity and need cooling--not exactly the greenest route.

Ray Bjorklund of FedSources, a consulting company, released a report today sponsored by SAP about how the public sector could promote sustainability. 

"Is business software the solution" to making the government more sustainable? he asked. "In the long run, yes. Right now? I'm not so sure."

Some agencies, he said are still using pencil and paper. They have a long way to go before getting to a point where they would truly benefit from the type of software SAP and others is trying to pitch for government and business use.