New York Times shines spotlight on the Internets impact on the environment

by David Pomerantz

September 24, 2012

Data centers like this run off dirty diesel generators

On Sunday, the New York Times launched a new series called The Cloud Factories that examines the massive data centers that store the data that makes up the internet, and the effects they have on the environment.

The series kicked off with Power, Pollution and the Internet, a long piece explaining the large and growing energy demand created by data centers.Part II of the seriesfocused on Microsofts data center in Quincy, Washington, and the companys willingness to needlessly use large amounts of power and run dirty diesel generators that belie the sleek, green modern image that Microsoft is trying to create for itself.

Both stories have run on the paper’s front page, and the burst of attention couldnt come at a more important time. As the Times notes:

Worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants, according to estimates industry experts compiled for The Times.

That power demand is only growing, and right now technology companies are hungrily swallowing up brown energy mostly coal and nuclear power to fuel the growth.

Greenpeace has recognised the importance of the issue for the last three years:Our supporters led a campaign that convinced Facebookto pledge to power its data centers with renewable energy in 2011. This year, Greenpeace International worked with Apple fans to convince the company to commit to100 % renewable, coal-freedata centers.

The Times published acompanion piecefrom Greenpeace International senior analyst, Gary Cook, alongside the series. One thing the Times hasnt covered as much yet is the fact that internet companies and data center operators do have a choice: they can invest in clean, renewable energy, and use their influence to make sure utilities provide it to them. Google and Facebook are already doing this, and Greenpeace and our supporters arecampaigning to get Amazon and Microsoft to join them.

As Gary wrote,

“If the I.T. sector as a whole embraced the challenge and used its buying power, influence and ability to innovate to transform the status quo of the energy sector, the growing cloud could become the engine that drives the switch from coal to renewable energy, a shift that will be good for tech companies bottom line and good for all of our futures.”

Stay tuned to the Times for more coverage, and to Greenpeace for ways that you can influence the companies you use every day like Amazon and Microsoft to go green.

David Pomerantz

By David Pomerantz

David Pomerantz is a former Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace USA, based in San Francisco. He helps lead Greenpeace's campaign for an economy powered by 100% renewable energy.

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