The iconic social networking site Facebook has been a useful, even indispensable, tool in fomenting social change, and even revolution, across the globe. But with more than 600 million members (and growing!), Facebook also burns more energy each day than numerous nations.
And what powers Facebook? Coal, the number-one contributor to climate change. At current growth rates, data centers and telecommunication networks—two key components of the “cloud” that Facebook depends on—will consume about 1,963 billion kilowatts hours of electricity in 2020. That’s more than triple their current consumption and more than the current electricity consumption of France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined.
Facebook proudly announced in February 2010 its plans to build a massive data center in Oregon full of the latest energy-efficient computers to serve the growing numbers of social networking denizens. But the company plans to run the place on electricity made by burning coal—the dirtiest source of energy and largest single source of global warming pollution in the world.
So Greenpeace is calling on Facebook to:
1. Increase the use of clean energy to make Facebook coal-free
2. Develop a plan to make Facebook coal-free by 2021
3. Educate its users about how Facebook powers its services and its carbon footprint
4. Advocate for clean energy at a local, national and international level
These demands are not at all unreasonable and would not undermine the company’s bottom line. Going green would burnish Facebook’s image and likely enhance its profitability.
Facebook can control where it builds its infrastructure, the power purchasing agreements it enters into and how it uses its brand’s power to advocate for strong policies that promote clean energy. Given all of the control the company has, Greenpeace argues, it can make a commitment to phase out coal and show the rest of the IT sector that it can be done.
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