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Facebook Responds to Greenpeace Letter

Facebook has responded to Greenpeace International's latest critiique, defending its decision to build an energy-efficient custom data center as the best path to reducing its carbon output.

Yesterday we noted the latest effort by the environmental group Greenpeace International to critique Facebook's decision to build its new Oregon data center in an area where the local utility uses coal to generate the majority of its power.

Facebook's Director of Policy Communications, Barry Schnitt, has responded in a comment on a post on the Greenpeace web site. Many of Schnitt's comments restate previous commentary on the issue (as was also the case with yesterday's letter from Greenpeace executive director Kumi Naidoo to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg). For the record, here's an excerpt from Schnitt's comment that speaks toi the central issue.  

"It’s true that the local utility for the region we chose, Pacific Power, has an energy mix that is weighted slightly more toward coal than the national average (58% vs. about 50%)," Schnitt writes. "However, the efficiency we are able to achieve because of the climate of the region minimizes our overall carbon footprint. Said differently, if we located the data center most other places, we would need mechanical chillers, use more energy, and be responsible for an overall larger environmental impact—even if that location was fueled by more renewable energy.

"In addition, we plan to have our data center in Prineville for a long time so when considering the sources of energy, we took a long term view," Schnitt continued. "The state of Oregon has an aggressive plan for increasing their renewable energy mix. In fact, Pacific Power plans to increase their renewable energy mix in the coming years. Their most recent plan calls for having more than 2,000 megawatts of renewable resources by 2013. Thus, our data center is only going to get greener over time as these resources come on line and contribute to even greater proportions of the facility’s energy."

Both Greenpeace and Facebook have argued their points at some length. Can the conversation on this important issue move beyond the current pattern of critique-and-response?

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