What's the truth about the charges against Facebook and others? The heart of Greenpeace's charges are that the companies data centers should be built near sources of renewable energy, and that the companies should push for policy changes that would ensure greener production of electricity. Greenpeace also charges that although the companies use electricity-cutting techniques in their data centers, they do that only to save money, and don't take more drastic action that would reduce the use of coal power.
Greenpeace has it partially right. As a whole, the technology industry has not done nearly enough to push for reforms that would push for the use of renewable energy and reduce the use of coal. And the industry also isn't doing enough to locate data centers near sources of renewable energy.
But the companies are also doing good as well. Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have located data centers near large sources of renewable energy, for example. Google purchases carbon offsets to make up for coal use. And all companies are doing an increasingly good job of making sure their data centers are very energy-efficient. The fact that they're doing it to help their bottom line doesn't matter --- it does help reduce global warming.
Still, Greenpeace is right that the industry needs to locate data centers near sources of renewable power whenever possible, and that it should push for changes to cut our reliance on coal.