Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Green energy: Google v. Facebook

Facebook just announced that its new data center would be cooled by coal-fired electricity.
This is a huge disappointment considering that FB could have chosen power from an electric company offering a menu of choices, including renewable options. Presumably, the plant in Idaho powering FB's data center derives electricity from coal only. Or, worse yet, when faced with different options from the same plant, FB went for the cheapest option - coal. Of course, renewable energy can cost more sometimes, but, considering Facebook's mindshare of 350 million, the company should have taken the high road and chosen the environmentally sound option of clean energy, influencing individual attitudes and business culture in the process.

In STARK contrast, Google clearly lays out its approach to choosing electricity for data centers,
"[W]hen buying power for our data centers, Google will use a “shadow price” for carbon. This voluntary pricing of carbon will enable us to calculate a more accurate cost of power as one of the key criteria in site selection for our data centers. The cost of carbon is not yet recognized by the U.S. market, but may soon become so through legislation. Pricing carbon is an important tool to reducing the financial risk that our energy investments face. Moreover, when evaluating power options, using a shadow price for carbon puts renewable energy on a more level playing field." So, in contrast to FB, Google is willing to factor into the price of the energy it purchases for its data centers the negative externalities of environmental damage caused by carbon emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. And as if that were not commendable enough, Google has committed funding and grants to renewable energy research: " is taking several significant steps to advance RE
Through its choice of coal-fired electricity, you can infer a lot about FB's ethos: greed clearly takes priority over any desire to be a positive, transformative force in society. In this case, my hat really goes off to Google. Not only does their green energy mission statement, clearly explained on their website, amount to excellent corporate PR but they've actually put their money where their mouth is -- in terms of adopting a "shadow price" for carbon AND committing funds to renewable energy research.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Facebook has suspended or shut down several politically sensitive fan pages/groups this week

[Excerpts from SCMP article]

"Kelvin Sit Tak-O, who runs a discussion group that opposes the pro-establishment party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), said his group's Facebook page was shut down without notice on Thursday. The group had 84,298 members and was aiming for 100,000.

'Apart from my own group, I've heard that other groups with an anti-DAB message have also been closed. We've written complaint letters, but we've only received standard replies about how [Facebook] is working on this case,' Sit said.
Christina Chan Hau-man, a student protester who waved a Tibetan flag during the torch relay and used Facebook to rally support, had her account closed days before the event. At the time, she said she was told her page had been closed because of 'persistent misuse of the site'.

Politicians yesterday urged Facebook to explain the recent closures, stressing that such discussion on the website encouraged more youth participation in politics."

[My own remarks based on my conversation with Kelvin Sit just now...]

Kelvin told me that although the original page is still down, he relaunched a new page, which has already hit 50,000 members since it launched 3 days ago.

Feeling very passionately about this issue because FREE SPEECH is integrally connected to being an environmental activist, I am urging international media based in HK to cover the story.

I hope you will do the same, as well as retweet and post this information, to increase the visibility of this shut-down, so that it becomes an issue of international notoriety. After all, this is the flipside of the Google China story and Hong Kong is the last bastion of free speech in greater China. (By the way, here is my op-ed letter to the IHT about Google and China which was published in the wake of that imbroglio.
Note that my views are entirely different in this case because Hong Kong is NOT China! No way!)
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