The story about the founders of Facebook, The Social Network, premieres next week, and Greenpeace has taken the opportunity to create our own short film, The So Coal Network, which tells the story of how Facebook has chosen dirty coal power instead of clean energy.
In a letter that I sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on September 1st, I questioned his decision to locate, then double the size of, Facebook's data centre in Prineville, Oregon -- a location with an over-reliance on dirty energy.
Our complaint, and that of 500,000 Facebook users who joined a Facebook group calling for the company to use clean energy to power its social network, is that Mr. Zuckerberg is not growing his company responsibly.
Coal and the internet
There's simply no denying that we need to kick our coal habit in order to halt climate change. A company such as Facebook, which now has 500 million users world-wide, can have both a direct and indirect effect on this reality. Direct because the company can reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions by phasing coal out of its electricity use. Indirect in that a true display of leadership will set a high bar for the rest of the industry and help catalyze a clean energy transformation.
My letter was met with a response from Facebook, in which he touts Facebook's energy efficiency measures, but unfortunately misses the point that the source of electricity used to power Facebook's facilities is of utmost importance given the company's fast expansion.
Our back and forth with Facebook has stirred up some good conversation. The tech bloggers at CNET, CrunchGear, and ReadWriteWeb have weighed in. And even though not everyone agrees with how we make a point, most seem to agree with the point itself. As Katie Fehrenbacher, editor of Earth2Tech, put it: "That's why successful, large Internet companies - like Facebook - need to push the envelope and use the heft of their purchasing power."
Exactly. Facebook needs to make investments that increase the deployment of renewable energy, not coal.
Greenpeace has spent the past six years working with IT companies on issues ranging from electronic waste to the phase-out of toxic chemicals from consumer products. We know that this industry has great potential to tackle climate change as it has tackled other environmental issues: by applying its innovative and competitive spirit to come up with solutions that help transform the economy.
If IT companies like Facebook choose to exercise true leadership, we can look forward to a cleaner energy future.