Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Friday, August 12, 2022

Greenpeace Activists Troll Amazon In Attempt to Make AWS Cleaner 

<p><span style="font-family: verdana, geneva;">The environmental organization creates “green amazon web services” website promising to make AWS the greenest in the world. The site got a lot of attention at Amazon's “AWS Re:Invent” event in Las Vegas...</span></p>

The site is a fake. Seemingly an Amazon AWS site with an announcement that the online retailer is switching its datacenters to sustainable energy sources, it was not created by anyone affiliated with Amazon Web Services (AWS), but turns out to be a spoof apparently intended to embarrass Amazon into cleaning up its dirty clouds.

The fake site is not the first stunt Greenpeace has aimed at Amazon. In April it sent activists to the roof of Amazon's new headquarters in Seattle, who rappelled down the wall in order to post a giant banner that read, “Amazon, Microsoft how clean is your cloud?”

The new site starts out with a statement under the heading 'About AWS Green Team:'

At AWS, we are always working to make our cloud options the best in the world. Now we are starting a new initiative to make the AWS cloud the greenest too.

The site lays out Amazon's flaws in a mea culpa format: “Too much of our energy supply comes from coal and nuclear power plants...” with a pie chart showing that 81% of its data center energy comes from those sources, while just 2% comes from renewable sources.

It also lays out the (Greenpeace) arguments for the use of renewable energy: greater stability of the power supply, price advantages, and allowing its customers the ability to meet their own environmental standards. Of course, many others in the datacenter industry would dispute those first two arguments (unless you're using hydro-electric power, which has its own environmental consequences.)

The website promises datacenters in 2013 that will be fully powered by renewable sources.

It also tries to get customers to put pressure on Amazon. The site says that Amazon will continue to seek clean energy sources “as long as our customers want a clean-powered cloud.” There is a chance to vote on whether people would like a cloud option from AWS powered by renewable energy. Of 62 people voting, 92 percent said yes.

At the bottom of the page there's a link for people interested in becoming one of the first customers of Amazon's green cloud. It actually takes them to another Greenpeace-created site, which explains the hoax and the fact that Amazon dramatically lags behind some of its competitors on the green front. A table lists the amount of clean energy used by different companies and their “claimed renewable energy commitment.” The listings range from AWS—with no commitment and 14% clean energy—to Google, with a carbon neutral pledge, a $1 billion investment already made in renewable energy, and 40% use of renewable energy in its cloud services.

Of course, Microsoft, despite its “carbon neutral” pledge, doesn't come out much better than Amazon on the Clean Energy Index. It has the second lowest score, at 22% renewable energy.

There is no response yet from Amazon, which is notoriously secretive about its operations.

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