Silicon Valley Artificial Intelligence Is Running on Eastern Coal

Silicon Valley Artificial Intelligence Is Running on Eastern Coal

The Longview Power Plant, a coal-fired plant, stands in Maidsville, W.Va., on Aug. 21, 2018. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

John Seiler

John Seiler


Updated: 4/24/2024


When your cell phone gets hot, that means its processors are computing faster or you have a lot of apps open. The same is true for “server farms,” which explains are “a large number—up to thousands—of servers grouped together to provide better functionality and accessibility.”
It takes a lot of energy to run those hot servers and air-conditioning to keep them cool. Artificial intelligence (AI) requires even more servers and energy. As The Real Deal reported, “Silicon Valley vies with SF as ‘AI capital of the world.’” So far, California remains ahead of everyone else, including Communist China, in the race for AI dominance.
So where would San Francisco and Silicon Valley AI companies, conscious of the need for energy from such renewable sources as wind and solar power, get the energy for their AI servers? Surely from California energy companies, especially Northern California’s PG&E?
Actually, there’s another, unexpected, source:
“Internet data centers are fueling drive to old power source: Coal,” headlined the Washington Post on April 17. Datelined Charles Town, W.Va., it reported surveyors are “eyeing space for yet another power line next to the property—a line that will take electricity generated from coal plants in the state to address a drain on power driven by the world’s internet hub in Northern Virginia 35 miles away.
“There, massive data centers with computers processing nearly 70 percent of global digital traffic are gobbling up electricity at a rate officials overseeing the power grid say is unsustainable unless two things happen: Several hundred miles of new transmission lines must be built, slicing through neighborhoods and farms in Virginia and three neighboring states. And antiquated coal-powered electricity plants that had been scheduled to go offline will need to keep running to fuel the increasing need for more power, undermining clean energy goals.”
Note the number: 70 percent of global digital traffic. This is being processed in Northern Virginia, the center of the U.S. government and a major location for these server farms.

Silicon Valley Hypocrisy

This affirms what I have written several times in The Epoch Times: The world isn’t following California’s obsession with ending all reliance on carbon-based energy. Communist China certainly isn’t, as I detailed recently in, “‘Green Innovation’ Study Shows California CO2 Policies Mainly Help China.”
Now it’s obvious our own globe-leading computer, internet, and AI industries are not following that anti-progress development, either. That’s despite almost all of Silicon Valley and San Francisco backing Gov. Gavin Newsom and his mandate to achieve 100 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2035.
In his 2022 reelection, Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, received 59.2 percent statewide to 40.8 percent for Republican opponent Brian Dahle. But Mr. Newsom garnered 85.4 percent in San Francisco. And for Silicon Valley, it was 75 percent in San Mateo County and 70 percent in Santa Clara County.
In the 2020 presidential election, President Joe Biden grabbed 63.5 percent statewide to 34.3 percent for former President Donald Trump. But President Biden got 85.3 percent in San Francisco, 77.9 percent in San Mateo County, and 72.7 percent in Santa Clara County.
By contrast, in West Virginia, President Biden won just 29.7 percent to former President Trump’s 68.6 percent.
Silicon Valley might back green energy, but its business benefits from coal. The reason it can advance this hypocrisy is because of the vast network of fiberoptic cables crisscrossing the country. They hook up everything from computer companies to all kinds of businesses, and probably the computer network in your home. I’m writing this using Google Fiber.
TechTarget explains, “Fiber optics, or optical fiber, refers to the technology that transmits information as light pulses along a glass or plastic fiber.” And light, of course, travels at the speed of light: 299,792,458 meters, or 186,000 miles, per second.
The whole world also is entwined in fiberoptic cables, as well as signals from satellites. So computer servers are all around the world. But it makes sense for Silicon Valley and San Francisco companies to plant their servers in the United States, because our country is well-defended by the U.S. military. Since the cables between California and West Virginia traverse our vast continent, they can’t be cut by a foreign sea power like undersea cables.

Computer Money Talks

As the Washington Post reported, coal use to generate power continues, even in Virginia, despite the state “fully embracing” clean energy. The server farms bring in massive revenues to local governments from the state’s property tax, which applies to land and equipment. “With Amazon Web Services pursuing a $35 billion data center expansion in Virginia, rural portions of the state are the industry’s newest target for development.
“The growth means big revenue for the localities that host the football-field-size buildings. Loudoun collects $600 million in annual taxes on the computer equipment inside the buildings, making it easier to fund schools and other services. Prince William, the second-largest market, collects $100 million per year.”
President Biden won Virginia 54.4 percent to 44.2 percent for former President Trump. But President Biden won Loudon County with 61.9 percent and Prince William County with 62.8 percent.
Northern Virginia might be liberal Democratic now. But as in California, green activists walk, but AI money talks.
John Seiler

John Seiler


John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at and his email is

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