Your iPhone's Dirty Secret

Greenpeace isn't pulling any punches with its annual report on Internet companies and their energy consumption

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Greenpeace isn't pulling any punches with its annual report on Internet companies and their energy consumption. And Apple is taking the brunt of the blows, shielding itself from accusations that it uses dirty energy to power the servers that keep things like iCloud and Siri up and running. Of course, Apple is denying everything.

It's easy read Greenpeace's report as a tad bit cynical. Apple, after all, is the same company that just sunk a billion dollars in building a iCloud data center in Maiden, North Carolina that's also one of the largest privately owned solar and fuel cell farms. The clean energy solutions, Greenpeace says, produce only ten percent of the 100MW needed to power the data center, while the rest is coming from nasty old coal. A troubling 55 percent of the electricity that powers Apple servers comes from coal, says Greenpeace. An Apple spokesman went on the record to rebut that claim. "Our data centre in North Carolina will draw about 20 megawatts at full capacity," he said, "and we are on track to supply more than 60 per cent of that power on-site from renewable sources including a solar farm and fuel cell installation which will each be the largest of their kind in the country." an Apple spokesman told The Telegraph's Christopher Williams.

Producer James West and Associate Producer Tim McDonnell for Climate Desk.

So what about everybody else? Well, Apple is hardly the only mega tech company getting on Greenpeace's nerves. Amazon's Web Services division failed in three out of four categories, and Twitter failed in two. HP, IBM, and Oracle are the heaviest coal burners besides Apple.

On a more positive note, Facebook and Google are doing great! It seems. "Google set up its own energy division to source cleaner electricity sources, and entered into 20-year contracts to buy wind power from Iowa and Oklahoma," explains The Guardian's Suzanne Goldberg. "Facebook, which was targeted last year by the Greenpeace Unfriend Coal campaign, is building a new data centre in Sweden, its largest yet, to be powered by hydroelectricity," Golberg writes. Facebook also wins the award for most dramatic cost-cutting measure for building the server farm way up next to arctic circle so it will take less energy to keep them cool.

Inevitably and perhaps controversially, Greenpeace's measuring stick is worth considering. Over the course of the next few decades, we're probably only going to become more dependent on our gadgets and, thus, the servers that keep online all the time. Just like we'll need to figure out a way to put cleaner fuel in our cars, somebody will have to figure out a sustainable way to keep the servers on, too. Otherwise, it'll be back to the dark ages, when the most interactive gadget you could get your hands on was a banged up GamerBoy. People would have to mail their stuff the old fashioned way, paper maps would grace glovebox again, and there would be fliphones everywhere. It would be horrible. Just horrible.

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