Facebook’s Coal Problem Grows Bigger

November 11, 2010; Source: Mashable.com | Facebook announced last week that the company would open a new data center in North Carolina. Its sticker price alone—nearly half a billion dollars—is enough to take your breath away, but paralleling the site’s staggering growth in users and revenue is its carbon footprint.

Greenpeace recently launched an effort to convince Facebook that its first data center, which is coal-powered, is detrimental to both the environment and its image. To counter, Facebook launched a PR campaign to tout the ways the company is going green. For example, Facebook, in the announcement of the new data center, bragged about technologies they had developed that permitted twice the data to be processed using the same amount of energy.

Activists at Greenpeace aren’t so impressed, and point to the 600,000 Facebook users who have joined up with their anti-coal campaign as evidence that Facebook’s spin isn’t convincing anybody. About the new data center, Greenpeace’s Gary Cook issued a statement saying, “Facebook has again chosen a location that will increase demand for dirty energy,” and while energy efficiency initiatives are the first step towards bettering their corporate citizenship, steps two, three, and beyond are what comprise a responsible strategy, rather than simply greenwashing.—James David Morgan

  • Brent Hawley

    My comment is very brief and directed only toward the Greenpeace organization.

    Dear Greenpeace, I would prove beneficial to both your organization as well as those who so diligently follow you to take a step back and report the whole truth. You either do not understand how the power grid in America works or you choose to misrepresent the facts. The fact is all pubic power grids use coal, and while some (most) incorporate other power producing technologies there is no way of using power from the grid without utilizing power from coal. Furthermore, even if they build a data center adjactent a “green” power source they will still be raising the overall power demand and since the majority of existing “green” power producers are already at max. output coal will have to pick up the slack (additional power demand) down the line.

  • Patti Guptill

    As a facebook user, I had not thought about the carbon footprint I am a part of creating with use of the site. It is important for someone to be out there calling these things to our attention. Further, though Brent is correct that one can’t tell, when connected to a larger power grid, exactly where one’s energy is coming from, paying a premium to support green energy production helps to make that type of energy a larger portion of the whole.
    Facebook can do a lot when building a new building to produce energy for themselves by making use of available technologies. I would like to hear that Facebook is working to do this in their building design.