One of the funny words of observation I remember is Sheila Brady during the development of System 7 telling the story of how you can play with your dog and it brings you a rock. You can tell the dog no not that rock. Go get another one. It gets another one. No not that rock. this one. no. this one. no. The dog can keep this up trying to please you. Sometimes people expect you to be like a dog. How about if the software works this way. No. How about this way. No. This way. No. Can you tell me what you want? No. I’ll tell you when I see it.
This reminds me of Amazon’s interaction with Greenpeace. Greenpeace gives Amazon numbers on its data center carbon footprint. No that’s not accurate. What is wrong with the numbers. Go get another rock and I’ll tell you if it is the right rock. Greenpeace isn’t dumb enough to play this game and this game is getting documented. Forbes posts on the topic.
In a statement emailed to me at my request, an AWS spokesperson agrees with Greenpeace that clean sources of energy should be a priority but says the Greenpeace analysis “misses the mark by using false assumptions on AWS operations and inaccurate data on AWS energy consumption. We provided this feedback to Greenpeace prior to publishing their report.”
The company also makes the point that the AWS Cloud reduces dependence on smaller, over-provisioned data centers that are less energy-efficient. It notes:
We work hard on our own, and together with our power providers all over the world, to offer AWS Cloud services in an environmentally friendly way in all of our regions. AWS operates efficient and highly utilized data centers across 10 different regions globally, two of which (Oregon and GovCloud Regions) use 100% carbon-free power. We like offering customers the choice of being able to run carbon-free, and we love doing it without charging a premium over other North American regions.
You could argue whether or not AWS has been as proactive as it should be about clean energy sourcing. The point is that we really can’t tell, and that is probably Greenpeace’s biggest issue.
Could Amazon tell Greenpeace how they are wrong? Yes. But, Amazon likes Greenpeace not knowing what the answers are. How would you like to get a test with a C on it and nothing marked with what is wrong and only Amazon has the answers to the test. Would you take the test again? I don’t Greenpeace will until next year when they come up with another guess at what the carbon footprint is of Amazon’s data centers.