Facebook offices on University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA. Photo via Flickr

Facebook’s first ever data center, full of state of the art and energy efficient equipment, will be built in Prineville, Oregon in the north west of the US. Unfortunately the energy required to operate the data center will be supplied by the utility company Pacific Power, which is primarily fuelled by coal – the largest single source of global warming pollution in the world. We have called on Facebook to dump coal all together and instead use 100 percent renewable energy, taking the lead in being part of the solution to climate change.

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Burning coal contributes the largest share of CO2 emissions globally, as well as contributing to increased asthma, acid rain, and mortality from other pollutants. By choosing a company primarily powered by coal over other cleaner sources of energy is a missed opportunity for Facebook to strike a blow against this dirty fuel and drive a clean energy economy. We expect more from a company that was recently named the most innovative by Fast Company magazine.

This is what we are calling on Facebook and other IT companies, to do:

• Commit to growing without using dirty coal power;

• Use its purchasing power to choose clean sources of electricity;

• Advocate for strong climate and energy policy changes at the local, national and international level to ensure that as its industry's appetite for energy increases, so does the supply of renewable energy;

• Share this information publicly on its website so its 350 million users know the company is a climate leader.

The IT industry’s importance and potential to lead innovation is the reason behind Greenpeace’s start of the Cool IT Campaign in 2009. By engaging with companies and creating public pressure we want to set the industry in motion to put forward solutions (such as smart grids for electricity supply, zero emissions buildings and more efficient transport systems) that can achieve greenhouse gas emissions reduction and them becoming advocates for policies that combat climate change and increase the use of renewable energy together with innovation. Yahoo for example, chose to build its datacenter in a cooler climate, just like Facebook has, but it also chose the location because it was in proximity to lower carbon hydropower. Google is aiming to become carbon neutral and will start buying utility-scale renewable energy to control the energy costs of its data centers.

The Climate Group and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) issued SMART 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age in 2008. The study showed the incredible efficiencies IT can create, but it also highlighted the massive footprint of the IT industry and predicted that because of the rapid economic expansion in places like India and China, among other causes, demand for IT services will quadruple by 2020. Facebook’s data center will be ready for use in 2011, which means there is still time to move the company to change its policies.

If you also think that Facebook should dump coal, you can get involved by joining one of the numerous Facebook groups. You can also use your networks and creativity to spread the word on other online social networks about the campaign. Because all our campaigns are funded by our individual supporters, you can also contribute by donating. The internet is one of the greatest inventions ever for creating social change – let’s invest in our future and do all that we can for the green energy revolution by reducing the demand for coal.