Apple’s North Carolina data center isn’t online, but it’s already the world’s dirtiest. Like all previous Greenpeace media grabs, this latest report is based on estimates, which is a polite way of saying that they’re guessing. That said, who could’ve guessed that they would name the company most likely to attract headlines as the biggest polluter?
I live in Pennsylvania, which is a big coal producer. Every so many miles along the interstate, you will see a billboard advertising “clean coal,” which I snort in derision at.
It’s not that cleaner coal isn’t possible. It’s more the case that it simply doesn’t exist right now — vaporware.
I have a similar level of contempt for Greenpeace and their specific brand of “we assume you’re stupid” pronouncements.
Shock and awe
According to Greenpeace, Apple’s new North Carolina data center uses enough electricity to power 80,000 homes. Moreover, the site’s power provider gets its electricity mostly from coal (62 percent) and nuclear (32 percent), which from the group’s perspective is 94 percent dirty.
“Consumers want to know that when they upload a video or change their Facebook status that they are not contributing to global warming or future Fukushimas,” says Gary Cook, the author of Greenpeace’s “How dirty is your data.”
What a pile of crap. Greenpeace is manifesting the issue and attempting to shape the question even before it’s asked, assuming it ever would be.
Thereupon, yes, the coal industry kills people every day, tens of thousands every year. Yet, as energy goes, it’s incredibly cheap (measured in dollars per kilowatt) and has deep, foundational roots in economies around the world.
However, even if you include all of the people killed by atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear is far less deadly than coal. Less deadly than even if you reckon world nuclear against coal in China only.
And, though you could be forgiven for believing otherwise, no one’s died of radiation or related causes as a result of the Fukushima mess. Not one.
Progressively less believable
The report estimated [Ed—How?] dependence on coal for Apple’s data centers at 54.5 percent, followed by Facebook at 53.2 percent, IBM at 51.6 percent, HP at 49.4 percent, and Twitter at 42.5 percent.
The guestimated difference (based on guestimated data) between Apple, Facebook and IBM is less than 3 percent and still we get the headline “Apple named ‘least green’ tech company” from the Guardian. And, in case you’ve forgotten, Apple’s big new North Carolina data center — the premise behind that headline — hasn’t opened for business.
Additionally, there’s no guestimate of who’s pumping the most data and thereby creating the most pollution. This begs the question, “Where the heck is Akamai” in Greenpeace’s so-called data?”
Akamai serves massive amounts of data (i.e. streamed audio and video) and they’re not included? As to why, the obvious answer is the Akamai brand has just about zero headline generating potential.
Next, data center data is dirty compared to what? Pressing music, movies and TV shows to plastic disks, transporting, warehousing, retailing and then landfilling them?
Whereas the agitprop group waffles and wanes on the very real and measurable benefits of “dematerialization” (their word for moving from atoms to bits), Guardian did dig up the End-Use Forecasting Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory which says that data center music-movies-etc reduce emissions by 40 to 80 percent.
How dirty is your data — filthy if you’re getting it on disk.
Quibbling over crumbs
And, how much energy do data centers use? Two percent or less of current world supply.
So, data centers are highly efficient vis-a-vis the energy uses they replace, represent a very small fraction of current energy use and still Greenpeace thinks it appropriate to piss on about, in the larger view, infinitesimal details.
What are they going on about then? Well, check out the headlines attached to this story — it’s all about whoring Apple’s good name…
What’s your take?