R. Fink | Energy saved and Energy's loss

The Packet Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

That's the last of them,' the Rat said as he climbed down from his
ladder, sweating profusely from the Memorial Day weekend heat. 'Every single blessed bulb in this house is now a compact fluorescent.'

With electricity prices surging ' the cyberrodent's local utility is boosting its rates by 50 percent this month ' and the cost of cooling looming large, the Rat took some time during his three-day weekend to staunch some of the financial bleeding by upgrading and optimizing the burrow. 'They're loving me at the big-box hardware store this week,' he said to his wife as he folded the stepladder.

'Well, think of the return on investment,' Mrs. Rat snickered. 'The acquisition cost should be recouped in less than a quarter.'

'I swear, I'm never letting you read my budget requests ever again,' the whiskered one whined.

The Rat has been trying to move mountains recently within his agency to lower power consumption. 'You'd figure they'd see the potential,' he fumed. 'We're only spending about $10 billion a year across government agencies on energy. Plus, if I have to run more electrical distribution and cooling into my data center, I'm going to have to move the command bunker to a tent in the parking lot.'

The Rat's better half patted his head and smiled. 'Well, maybe now you'll let me turn on an air conditioner? If we were any more energy efficient around here, people might think we were some Energy Department research project.'

'We could probably fund the whole thing with the cost of the laptops DOE lost,' the Rat cackled. DOE recently notified Congress that it had lost 1,427 laptop PCs during the past six years ' not including losses in 2007 ' but said that none of them had classified information on them.

Losing things is nothing new at DOE, and the laptop loss is more of a financial problem than a security issue.

It's nothing like, say, the classified disks that went missing from Los Alamos three years ago. And it's not nearly as bad as the 20 missing desktop computers discovered in another Energy audit reported in April ' 14 of which were used by the agency to process classified nuclear-weapons data.

But DOE isn't the only one finding holes in its asset control, obviously. The Commerce Department reported in September 2006 that it had lost 1,100 laptops in the same time frame, some with census data on them.

Projecting that rate of loss across the rest of the government, the Rat figures the replacement rate would be enough to support a small, dedicated manufacturing operation ' say, the size of Lenovo.

'If we could convert all the steam coming out of people's ears over this into energy,' the wirebiter said with a grin, 'we could power the eastern seaboard for a month.'

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