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Guitar Hero, Environmental Villain

Video games get blamed for a lot of stuff, including violence, ADD, and obesity. Now you can add environmental degradation to the charges.

Video games get blamed for a lot of stuff, including violence, ADD, and obesity. Now you can add environmental degradation to the charges.Video game consoles consume as much electricity per year as the city of San Diego, says a new report from the National Resources Defense Council. And all that electricity consumption means more pollutants from the power plants generating juice.

The NRDC sponsored a study to measure electricity usage of video game consoles. The study found the Sony PlayStation 3 to be the biggest electricity hog, using an average of 150 watts of electricity in active mode. Xbox 360 was second, at 119 watts. By comparison, the mellow, less-graphically powerful Nintendo Wii consumes a mere 20 watts.

According to the study, if you leave an Xbox or SP3 system on all year, it consumes approximately the same amount of electricity as two refrigerators.

But there's the issue: do gamers really leave these consoles on all the time? This is an area where the report waffles, slipping from hard data to squishy anecdotes:

"While we are unaware of any user data revealing the percentage of users who turn off their consoles after use, we have found anecdotally that many users leave their consoles on all the time. Some turn off their televisions at the end of a session and but to turn off peripherals like the console, while others keep their consoles on in order not to lose progress in a game."

Our household doesn't have a gaming console (at least not yet -- my boys are actively campaigning for one). But I'm curious to hear from gamers. Do you turn off your console? If not, will you now?

The study notes that electricity consumption is nearly the same whether the console is in active use or merely idle. Power consumption doesn't drop significantly until you actually turn it off.

The report encourages gamers to shut down their systems when not in use. It also appeals to the manufacturers to make the consoles more efficient, and to make power-saving features more prominent to players.

The report estimates that if these steps are taken, gamers could remove the equivalent amount of pollution from the environment as a year's worth of tailpipe emissions from all the cars in San Jose.

So come on, America, hit that off switch. If you're going to be violent, unable to concentrate and fat, you can at least be violent, unable to concentrate, fat, and green.

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