Google and Facebook Green Experts Baffled By Their Companies' Support For ALEC

Posted by Brad Johnson Sun, 17 Nov 2013 13:02:00 GMT

At a recent forum on the Internet industry’s support for green energy, Facebook and Google representatives could not explain why their companies are members of a powerful lobbying organization that opposes that mission. This year, Google and Facebook became members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nationwide lobbying group that links corporations and conservative foundations with Republican legislators at the state level. When asked by Hill Heat, Facebook’s Bill Weihl replied with reference to other Facebook partners, including Businesses for Social Responsibility (BSR), the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF):
We’re not an advocacy or a single-issue organization. We’re a company. We are members of many different organizations, that one included. We don’t necessarily agree with everything that these organizations says and certainly individual employees may not, but we do an enormous amount of good and we’re really proud of the work we’ve done through other organizations. We work with Greenpeace, BSR, WRI, WWF, and etcetera.

“It’s certainly not because we’re trying to oppose renewable energy legislation,” Weihl concluded, when asked why Facebook is a member of ALEC.

Weihl had earlier noted that Facebook has the explicit goal of being 25% powered by renewable energy by 2015, after which it will set another benchmark. ALEC is working to roll back renewable power standards that support Facebook’s targets.

“The DNA of Google isn’t just about being an environmental steward,” Google’s Gary Demasi said during the panel about climate change. “It’s a basic fundamental issue for the company.”

Like Weihl, Demasi couldn’t explain why Google was a member of ALEC, though he expressed discomfort with the company’s action.

“I would say the same as Bill [Weihl],” Demasi told this reporter when asked why Google supports ALEC. Although he may not be happy with every decision the company makes and doesn’t control the policy arm of Google, Demasi said, “we’re part of policy discussions.”

ALEC’s corporate board is dominated by tobacco and fossil-fuel interests, including Altria, Exxon Mobil, Peabody Energy, and Koch Industries. In its model legislation and policy briefs, ALEC questions the science of climate change and opposes renewable energy standards, regulation of greenhouse pollution, and other climate initiatives.

Google’s policy division is run by former Republican representative Susan Molinari, whose arrival in 2012 marked a rightward shift in Google’s approach to climate policy.

The forum, “Greening the Internet,” was hosted by the environmental organization Greenpeace at the San Francisco Exploratorium. Greenpeace is simultaneously challenging the ALEC agenda, calling out companies like Google for supporting the politics of climate denial, and encouraging internet companies to “clean the cloud.” Greenpeace’s “Cool IT” rankings take political advocacy as a major concern; in 2012 Google had the top score among all tech companies in part because companies such as Microsoft and AT&T were members of ALEC.

The panelists, from Google, Facebook, Rackspace, Box, and NREL, explained why their companies have set the goal of having their data centers be powered entirely by renewable energy.

Box’s Andy Broer made the moral case for acting to reduce climate pollution.

“I’ve got kids,” he said. “We’re stewards here. We need to make certain what we’re doing today doesn’t ruin the future.”


HILLHEAT: I want to, first off, thank all of you for the work that you’re doing. As kind of a failed climate scientist, I’ve dedicated my life to fighting climate change, and you’re actually getting real results in that. One thing that concerns me is that the American Legislative Exchange Council — which is a corporate group that anyone who is a member of Greenpeace or has read anything of their work [knows] — works to block renewable energy legislation at the state level, question the science of climate change, and basically establish policies that prevent the kind of work that you’re doing. So I’m wondering why Google and Facebook are members of this organization, and how it makes you feel that the work that you’re doing is essentially being countered by the political arms of your own groups?

[Nervous audience laughter.]

WEIHL: We’re not an advocacy or a single-issue organization. We’re a company. We are members of many different organizations, that one included. We don’t necessarily agree with everything that these organizations says and certainly individual employees may not, but we are in a position do an enormous amount of good, and we’re really proud of the work we’ve done as a company, and through other organizations. We work with Greenpeace, BSR, WRI, WWF, and et cetera.

HILLHEAT: And do you know why you’re working with ALEC?

WEIHL: I’m not familiar with all the details of why we’re working with ALEC, so I can’t comment on that.

HILLHEAT: It’s not because you’re trying to oppose renewable energy legislation?

WEIHL: It’s certainly not because we’re trying to oppose renewable energy legislation.

HILLHEAT: And is Google in the same boat?

FEHRENBACHER: I’m going to go on to the next question.

Greening The Internet: How Leading Companies are Building a Green Web

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 13 Nov 2013 21:00:00 GMT

Greenpeace and Gigaom’s Katie Fehrenbacher cordially invite you to a special forum on the sustainability of the IT sector:

Greening The Internet: How Leading Companies are Building a Green Web

At the San Francisco Exploratorium.

Cloud and mobile computing are transforming society and have the potential to help make it greener. But the rapid growth in electricity needed to power the online world is gaining attention and raising a central question: How Green is the Internet?

In an important shift, some of the best known Internet companies have recently embraced this challenge head on. Join data center and sustainability experts from Box, Facebook, Google, Rackspace, and other leading companies to hear why they are going beyond energy efficiency and have committed to powering their growth with clean renewable electricity.

Gigaom’s Katie Fehrenbacher will lead a discussion with energy experts and representatives from Internet companies who have already committed to power their operations with 100% renewable electricity, to address question like:

  • Why are leading Internet companies committing to 100% renewable energy?
  • How can Internet companies play an important role in accelerating a shift to renewable energy?
  • What are the challenges to powering with renewables, and how have companies overcome them?
  • What renewable energy options do companies who rely on colocation providers have?

Following the forum, all participants are invited to take a tour of the Rainbow Warrior III, Greenpeace’s new custom-built, high-tech sailing ship, which will be docked next to the Exploratorium.

12:45PM Registration
1:00PM Welcome – Katie Fehrenbacher, Senior Writer, GigaOM
1:05PM Building a Green Internet—Why It Matters and Signs of Leadership, Gary Cook, Senior IT Analyst, Greenpeace International
1:15PM What are the options to build a Green Internet?
1:20PM Greening the Internet: Leading internet companies share why and how they are seeking to power their platforms with clean power. Presentations by Box, Facebook, Google, Rackspace and other leading technology companies.
2:30PM Break
2:40PM-4:00PM Complimentary 20-minute tours of Rainbow Warrior III, Greenpeace flagship docked at the Exploratorium
2:40PM In depth lessons learned sessions on renewable energy options and energy reporting (company representatives only)


Facebook Bill Weihl

Bill Weihl joined Facebook in early 2012 to manage sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives. His group is leading projects to measure and report the company’s carbon and energy footprint, to build real-time public dashboards for PUE and WUE, and to procure clean energy, and generally to understand and manage the company’s environmental footprint. Previously, he spent six years as green energy czar at Google, where he led efforts in energy efficiency and renewable energy, spearheading Google’s drive to become carbon neutral, founding the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, and leading the RE&IT initiative to develop renewable energy cheaper than coal. He has extensive business and technical experience in high-tech, including ten years as a professor of computer science at MIT, five years as a research scientist at Digital’s Systems Research Center, and five years as chief architect and then CTO of Akamai Technologies. In 2009, he was named one of Time Magazine’s Heroes of the Environment.

Rackspace Hosting Melissa Gray Senior Director of Sustainability

Melissa is responsible for defining and guiding Rackspace’s Sustainability strategy and activities around the globe. She leads the Global Energy Team, Green Teams and is a member of the Global Infrastructure Team. In addition she leads the Emerging Talent team for Rackspace’s Foundation Services organization and is the Executive Sponsor of the LGBTQA Emloyee Resource Group. Since joining Rackspace in October of 2009, her prior roles have included the development of Operational Support Systems and Chief of Staff to the CEO developing Rackspace’s multi-year strategic plan. Prior to Rackspace, Gray brings over 15 years of business strategy and operations experience working for a Fortune 10 company, transforming complex legacy businesses through innovation. She holds 3 EU and US software patents. Melissa received her B.A. from Western Michigan University.

Google Gary Demasi Director of Data Center Energy and Location Strategy

Gary has over 15 strategy development, corporate site selection, and negotiations experience covering a wide range of industries and operational areas. He has personally managed projects involving hundreds of millions of dollars of capital expenditures, and has executed strategic projects on five continents. In Gary’s current role, he develops overall direction for Google’s global data center site strategy, including managing the company’s energy portfolio, working closely with utility and development partners to secure clean energy for operations. Gary participated in the founding of “Google Energy, LLC” and under Gary’s management, the team has secured over 570 megawatts of renewable energy under long term contracts. Gary holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from the University of Vermont and a Master of Science in Real Estate from the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University.

Box Andy Broer Senior Manager of Datacenter Operations

Andy Broer is the senior manager of data center operations at Box. He is responsible for server procurement and provisioning, space and power management and the critical environment that runs Box’s Saas offering. Previous to joining Box in Feb of 2013 he headed Cisco’s Infrastructure Critical Environments (ICE) team for 16 years. Where he was most recently the physical data center design manager of Richardson 9’s DC, the IT “energy czar” watching over capacity constraints for Cisco’s critical IT environments. He was the IT DC build manager for Cisco’s first stand alone Tier III data center in Texas. Prior to that he headed and managed the Data Center Infrastructure Team through Cisco’s explosive growth years in the late 1990s via global acquisitions during which time his team built more than 100 server environments around the world. He was a board and founding member of AFCOM’s northern California branch in 1997 as well as a trustee for a high tech mutual fund (BFOCX) since 1998. He is now co-chair of the Critical Facilities Roundtable’s Technology Group (CFRT). He holds two degrees from San Jose State University: a BA and an MA.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory Stuart Macmillan

Stuart Macmillan is a Chief Scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a Consulting Professor at Stanford University. He was on the founding team of Energy System Integration focused on improved understanding, decision-making, control and design of complex energy systems. He helped create OpenEI, a global energy data commons, and was on the founding team of JavaSoft.

Greenpeace International Gary Cook Senior IT Policy Analyst

Gary leads Greenpeace’s evaluation of climate and energy leadership by global IT brands. He has authored three reports evaluating the growth in electricity demand associated with cloud computing and how different IT companies are performing in ensuring this new demand is powered by renewable energy. Gary has been active in the climate change & energy policy at multiple levels over the past 18 years, working with government officials, multinational corporations, and local governments to strengthen policy drivers at the international, federal, subnational levels Prior to rejoining Greenpeace in 2009, Gary was California Director of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability.