As I write this, the price of oil is nearing $110 a barrel. Analysts predict gas will cost $4 per gallon by summer - it's already $3.80 per gallon here in California.

Against that backdrop, the timing of this month's focus on green technology couldn't be better. Inside, you'll find an extensive discussion of how to cut energy use in data centers, which consumed 61 billion kilowatt-hours of power in 2006, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. You'll also see how jurisdictions nationwide are implementing policies and technologies to conserve resources and reduce an organization's carbon footprint.

Like many of you, I've watched this issue evolve for several years. At first, it was widely considered a "good" thing to do - but with little management imperative behind it. That's changing for several reasons.

Clearly rising energy costs play a role. Powering servers and cooling data center facilities are increasingly expensive propositions. Therefore, energy conservation is getting more consideration in data center modernization initiatives and equipment replacement plans.

Ecologically friendly work force policies are gaining traction as well. More government agencies allow telecommuting and flexible scheduling. These practices deliver a double benefit - taking cars off the road and helping attract and retain qualified employees - issues that will take on even greater importance as traffic congestion worsens and baby boomers retire from government service.

However, developing the policies and technological infrastructure that allow public employees to telecommute isn't just green. They may be vital to government's continuity during a pandemic or in the aftermath of a disaster that destroys government offices.

Despite these drivers, getting greener isn't always easy. Equipment upgrades demand investment, which must be backed by executives. Telecommuting, in particular, presents policy and management challenges for some government agencies. Supervisors must adapt to managing staff members who aren't always at their desks. And some worry about taxpayers' perception of public employees who are at home during business hours instead of in an office.

Clearly these issues aren't insurmountable. For proof, check out the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, where roughly 40 percent of the work force telecommutes at least one day per week.

As you'll see on the following pages, governments are getting serious about energy conservation and sustainability. As energy costs continue to skyrocket - and work force and business continuity issues become more urgent - green technology and policies stand to gain even more attention from government IT professionals.