Greenpeace has recently decided that going after oil drillers and coal miners is not enough and they plan to focus on companies they believe to be polluting by expanding their efforts into the data center market. More specifically the company recently chose to go after Apple and Facebook because of where they decided to locate their data centers. Greenpeace it seems prefers to have data centers located where there is less coal involved in energy production.
Unfortunately for Greenpeace, the companies who choose to locate their data centers where coal is a larger than average source of energy are often doing so because the costs are generally lower. And the primary goal of companies is to generate the most profit - without breaking the law of course.
Although our administration has threatened to make using coal much more difficult, for now companies have to do right by their shareholders and I applaud capitalist organizations that do so and keep hundreds of millions employed worldwide. After all, if these companies don't do their jobs, they trigger lawsuits... And the last I checked, US courts produce massive volumes of printed documents and require companies to fly witnesses around the country - burning even more fuel.
Let's get back to Apple and assume their data center is doing lots of storing and processing of iTunes music and doing backups via MobileMe. In these cases, the cloud keeps users from having to purchase CDs and DVDs which are not great for the environment. In addition, the backups to the cloud mean less of a need for tapes and locally based backup disks. Again - a plus for the environment.
In terms of Facebook, many people use the social networking service to share photos. And the last I looked, there are lots of toxic chemicals, paper and plastic involved in printing photos - which is what many of us who are old enough have all done. So again, this is a positive move for the environment.
We will continue to see the debate between environmentalists and corporations who provide people jobs. In economic times like this let's hope society doesn't excessively split hairs regarding the environment at the expense of getting people back into the workforce.