You're 'so coal': Angling to shame Facebook

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You're 'so coal': Angling to shame Facebook
Highlights
  • It’s not intuitive to have pity for Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old co-founder of Facebook. But lately Mr. Zuckerberg, thought to be the world’s youngest billionaire, is facing salvos from all sides — including green activists.
It's not intuitive to have pity for Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old co-founder of Facebook. But lately Mr. Zuckerberg, thought to be the world's youngest billionaire, is facing salvos from all sides -- including green activists.

First, the Hollywood writer-producer Aaron Sorkin took aim at him in a completely unauthorized full-length feature film due out on Oct. 1 called "The Social Network." Now environmental activists at Greenpeace International have produced an animated mini-film called the "So-Coal Network."

Greenpeace is trying to corner Mr. Zuckerberg on Facebook's decision to build a massive new data center in Prineville, Ore. The crime here is that power for the center will be provided by the local utility, PacifiCorp, which Greenpeace says is disproportionately powered by coal. Emissions from burning coal are, of course, viewed as a major contributor to global warming.

Barry Schnitt, director of policy communications at Facebook, defends his company's decision to build in Oregon as environmentally wise. He says the complex's advanced design and Prinevillle's naturally temperate, arid climate will help the company avoid the biggest energy drain faced by data centers, use of a vast cooling system.

He says that while data facilities in other places often require the equivalent of large central air conditioners to keep processors from overheating, this one will use the meta equivalent of ceiling fans. The lower energy use makes up for the slightly higher percentage of coal that PacifiCorp uses to generate electricity, Mr. Schnitt argues.

But Greenpeace is not buying it. Instead, it says it wants Facebook to take its enormous purchasing power to a place that allows it to use energy from renewable sources like the wind or the sun. It praises another IT super-giant, Google, for doing that.

In their brief animated film, the activists warn that they have gathered half a million people (on Facebook!) who oppose the Prineville project and that if Mr. Zuckerberg proceeds, he could lose all those "friends."
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