Greenpeace Pushes Amazon to Go Green with Giant Alexa in Crystal City

Arlington, Virginia — Environmental group Greenpeace pranked Amazon on Thursday near the future site of its new headquarters for dragging its feet on a promise to reduce its energy usage. Greenpeace erected a 6-foot replica of “Alexa,” Amazon’s interactive home assistance device, outside Crystal City metro entrances to give the public a chance to ask Alexa why Amazon did not meet its 2014 promise to go 100% green.

The Greenpeace mock version of Alexa answered questions about Amazon’s Web Services fossil energy use and said that much of its energy was still being sourced from dirty fossil fuels. This is because Amazon has not kept up with its renewable energy promise to build a renewable energy supply despite having tripled its energy demand in the last four years.

It is also difficult to get statistics from Amazon Corporation about its energy use because it does not report its energy consumption statistics, according to Greenpeace.

“Amazon Web Services and Amazon have consistently refused to report their energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions leaving the public in the dark about their carbon footprint,” said Greenpeace USA Senior Corporate Campaigner Elizabeth Jardim.

Greenpeace invites passersby to “ask Alexa” about the amount of energy used by its massive server farms./Photo by John Zangas

Most of the other web corporations freely provide energy consumption data to the Carbon Footprint Project and get high marks for their reporting, but Amazon gets low ratings for not being transparent about their energy consumption status.

One of the major drivers of dirty fossil energy consumption in Virginia is Dominion Energy, which also has a stranglehold on the Virginia Legislature. Dominion Energy has focused on fracked methane gas infrastructure such as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, methane compressor stations, and Dominion Cove Point, for its energy generation. It and has long resisted a change over to renewable infrastructure. Amazon will not be able to decrease its reliance on dirty energy unless it builds or funds its own renewable energy in Virginia. According to Greenpeace, Amazon Web Services has done little to convert to renewable energy sources there.

Amazon Web Services is run on the concept of the “cloud” but it really isn’t a cloud as much as a series of data centers housed in unmarked football field-sized buildings which warehouse thousands of rows of servers. Seventy percent of the world’s internet traffic flows through the data centers in Northern Virginia, consuming large amounts of energy from fossil fuels. Dominion produces and will be the future source of Amazon’s growing energy needs.

Greenpeace staged the mock-up Alexa on the same day Amazon announced cancellation of its HQ2 location on Long Island over mounting grassroots opposition to it. Amazon had planned to split its East Coast workforce of 50,000 between New York and Virginia, but it has not yet announced where it will shift the 25,000 positions it had planned to bring to Long Island.

Amazon responded to the Greenpeace report by saying it was committed to going 100% green but admitted it had achieved only 50% renewable energy sources for its operations by 2018.

John Zangas

Author: John Zangas

Photo-journalist covering human rights and the environment. Revolution News and DCMediaGroup Follow @johnzangas