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Facebook and King Coal

Maggie Shiels | 10:30 UK time, Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Last week Facebook unveiled its Open Compute Project, which is at the heart of boosting innovation in the data centre space. The initiative was unveiled at an event at their headquarters in Silicon Valley where the social networking giant also took the wraps off their new custom-built data centre which opens in Prineville, Oregon at the end of this week.

Greenpeace protest against Facebook in Dublin, Ireland


A slew of environmental groups have commended the company for increasing its energy efficiency by 38%. But Greenpeace has slated Facebook for not going far enough. The problem, they say, is that while Facebook is building more efficient facilities, such as the one at Prineville and another in North Carolina, they are still relying on good old King Coal to power them. Greenpeace say that 62% of the electricity for these centres will be provided by utility companies that use coal-burning plants.

"Information technology is at the vanguard of technology but it is increasing demand for a 19th Century technology which is coal," said Daniel Kessler of Greenpeace.

"Facebook is an iconic brand. In many ways they are changing the world and we want them to change the way they use energy. But their new centres are hooked up to very dirty grids. While they may be taking the efficiency part of what they are doing very seriously they are not factoring in the type of energy they are using. Coal is the number one contributor to climate change," added Mr Kessler.

A video posted on YouTube by Greenpeace takes that thought one step further, by throwing in some hyperbole and charging Facebook as "the number one contributor to climate change".

But Facebook's vice president for technical operations Jonathan Heiliger said what they are doing "represents a quantum leap in energy efficiency":

"Reducing energy usage is the best thing we can do for the environment," said Mr Heiliger.

"Instead of worrying about what energy source you may have to choose and the impact on the environment, the best way to reduce CO2 and improve the environment is to cut energy consumption and that is what we are doing."

In a bid to influence the company at a grassroots level, Greenpeace is targeting Facebook's employees and bringing their message right to the social network's front doorstep.

Throughout this morning, employees will be accosted on their way into the office by Greenpeace campaigners urging them to take up the fight.

On the back of a flat bed truck there will be a giant 160-inch monitor, flashing LED messages and comments posted by people worldwide on a Facebook page set up for the campaign.

The page is part of an effort to amass the most comments ever to a Facebook post and earn a place in the Guinness Book of Records. Greenpeace said at least 50,000 comments are needed before 10pm Pacific standard time (0600 BST) tonight.

"A big part of our strategy is targeting Facebook's employees who we believe are on our side," said Mr Kessler:

"They share our values, they are young and they think they are working for a 'green' company. But they may not be aware that in fact Facebook contributes to the growing rate of emissions that are affecting our planet. We want the employees to start this conversation inside the company," he said.

Overhead there will be a 174ft-long "flying ship", or airship, with a banner calling on Facebook to "join the energy revolution".

Greenpeace volunteers in Ireland have already lobbied Facebook's offices in Dublin as part of the campaign.


  • Comment number 1.

    I'd be interested in finding out how Greenpeace are powering their 160-inch monitor, with flashing LEDs... Also, fairly sure that an airship uses power too. The killer irony is the Facebook page they've set-up, which obviously is 62% powered by "utility companies that use coal-burning plants". Perhaps they should be campaigning about the power companies, at the same time.

  • Comment number 2.

    LOL. These protesters are complete hypocrites. How much CO2 is released from them travelling to the HQ, getting their custom T-shirts and banners, airship etc.

    Then asking 50,000 people to log on to the evil FaceBook and use more energy. I'm betting they aren't telling their supporters to run their PCs from solar power...

    Get a real job!

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm all for increased use of renewables. However Green movement is hopelessly inconsistent with aim and application. Many alternatives to fossil fuel, Nuclear, etc are stopped in UK by combination of Greens/Environmentalists/NIMBYs. Examples are objections to wind turbines based on noise or visual pollution, Severn Estuary Barrage or lagoons damaging mud flats, hydro schemes on damage to rivers, non-recyclable waste CHP on pollution fears, and the list goes on. We must accept change is part of moving away from fossil fuels otherwise we will remain stuck with existing fuel base.

  • Comment number 4.

    Seems like we should all thank Gaia for good old Mrs. Thatcher for closing all those coal mines. If we truly know for a fact that coal is the number one contributor to climate change, then she did a great service to humanity and the planet. Surely that's more important than petty politics.

  • Comment number 5.

    Wish I could remember the link to the site which demonstrated that if it wasn't for the eco-loons 25 or so years ago the U.S. would have built shed loads of nuclear power stations. A consequence of which would have been their hugely reduced emissions such that they would be basking in the glow of congratulations from today's eco-loons rather than the opposite!

    I always remind people that Labour oversaw more pit closures than the Tories and ask the rosy spectacled brigade how they heat their home. Strangely coal doesn't seem to feature, so we could have had some lovely great piles of unsold coal despoiling the countryside now or, of course, lots more coal fired power stations!.

    Wasn't a new coal fired power station the subject of eco-loon protests in Kent a year or so ago.

  • Comment number 6.

    Facebook is the No.1 contributor to "climate change" - ah well, at least the eco-nutters at Greenpeace are leaving the airline users & drivers alone for a change. But the summer is here - barbecue & patio heater users beware, you'll be killing 1000 polar bears by cooking a burger!


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