Saturday, April 23, 2011

It Turns out Apple isn't so Green After All...

You may remember how apple has branded itself many times in the past with its clean, green, energy efficient image of long battery lives, smart production, and environmentally-conscious computers. The new macbook pro was advertised with images of green grass, blue skies, and bright sunshine in every Apple store, and they vowed to help recycle old computers. Well... they didn't quite cover all their bases on their green front; it turns out much of this effort was simply Greenwashing.

A report issued today by Greenpeace ranks tech companies by how "green" they are, based on an index that takes into account the kind of energy they use to power their data centers, manufacturing plants, and other facilities. Most of their energy use went into the data centers used to feed though all internet traffic used by Apple and its products, such as iTunes. As it turns out, a whopping two thirds of the energy for these data centers is provided by coal, arguably the dirtiest fuel used worldwide. The cleanest marks went to Google and Yahoo, who have made huge strides in making their data centers and operations more efficient.

We need companies to be smarter about their energy use. When you upload a video to Youtube, do you wanna feel guilty for adding more carbon emissions to the environment? Apple should take Facebook's lead, and disclose the information about their data centers, and start using more renewable energy, such as Solar Power, Wind, and Geothermal, to feed their huge hunger for energy. It's the responsible and smart thing to do, for the company that paints themselves as responsible, user-friendly, and efficient.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What the Frack?

You may have heard about it on the news recently: Fracking. The long term for it is Hydraulic Fracturing. Its a process by which millions of gallons of chemicals and water are pumped deep into gas-containing shale rock to fracture it and let the gas seep to the surface for collection. Its the biggest boon to the Natural Gas industry in decades, and is helping to drive down energy prices across the USA, which happens to be one of the largest sources of natural gas energy in the world. Heres a neat diagram showing how fracking works

On the surface, the process seems innovative and safe, but deep below the ground the chemicals, such as Methanol, are seeping into water tables and contaminating important aquifers in the northeast and Rocky Mountain west states, where the largest reserves of natural gas lie. Many gas companies claim the water stays deep underground, but natural capillary forces move the chemicals and contaminated water upward into looser surface layers where aquifers lie. Such chemicals are often highly poisonous and toxic to both the environment and to us Humans. These normally shouldn't be used in these instances, but thanks to a loophole in an energy bill passed by the Bush Administration and hurried through congress by Dick Cheney and Halliburton, these chemicals are not monitored by the E.P.A. and thus can be used without regulation, polluting the environment without any liability to the natural gas companies.

To make matters worse, since the recession hit 3 years ago, gas companies have been baiting landowners with high-paying contracts to use their land for fracking. A one-time installation of a fracking well can pay off in a short amount of time to the company while leaving the landowner with slowly degrading well water and hazardous chemicals. In the popular documentary Gasland, one homeowner in Pennsylvania is able to light his faucet tap water on fire simply due to the high concentration of gas and methanol seeping into his wellwater. Its disgusting, and people don't yet know how hazardous fracking really is. We urgently need to spread awareness of this problem and combat this situation before it gets out of hand and we're left with poisoned citizens and degraded watersheds across the U.S., simply because we wanted cheap gas.