Environmental organization Greenpeace has released a video harshly criticizing Facebook’s use of coal-fuelled electricity in its Oregon-based data center, singling out founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The organization calls Facebook a “so coal network”.
Greenpeace’s Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo, had earlier expressed his concern with the Oregon data center in an open letter to Zuckerberg, kicking off a campaign – on Facebook – to create awareness for the company’s use of “dirty energy”.
The Facebook group attracted over 600,000 people, which Greenpeace says all call for the social network company to seek renewable energy and look for places that have an abundance of fresh, sustainable options for its data center(s).
Facebook’s director of policy communications, Barry Schnitt, elaborately responded to the letter (see comments), pointing out the company does what it can to safeguard the environment as much as possible.
Some choice quotes from his response:
“It’s true that the local utility for the region we chose, Pacific Power, has an energy mix that is weighted slightly more toward coal than the national average (58% vs. about 50%). However, the efficiency we are able to achieve because of the climate of the region minimizes our overall carbon footprint.”
“At the same time, it is simply untrue to say that we chose coal as a source of power. The suggestions of “choosing coal” ignores the fact that there is no such thing as a coal-powered data center.”
Schnitt also subtly points out Greenpeace’s own infrastructure challenges. The organization runs a number of servers in a rented data center in Northern Virginia, which in turns runs 46% on – you guessed it – coal.
The back-and-forth continued, with Greenpeace responding to Schnitt’s statements and saying Facebook should wield its power to demand more renewable energy resources where it’s building its data center.
They also point out companies like Google and Yahoo are doing a far better job.
And now there’s the video, embedded above, which in my opinion focuses far too strongly on Zuckerberg as a person and boasts some obviously flawed assumptions about his past and present thinking. I mean, what’s the point of making fun of him for being a “nerd”?
There’s nothing green or peaceful about ad hominem attacks if you ask me.
The timing of the video’s release is likely not coincidental, either, as it comes just a week before the premiere of The Social Network – a film written by The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin about the origins of Facebook (which also features a lot of fiction).
In short, while I applaud much of what Greenpeace is doing as an organization, I’m not entirely sure releasing this type of video now is the right way of building a constructive relationship with Facebook, which in my mind would be far more beneficial for both.