Becoming Positive about Being Carbon Neutral: Requiring Public Accountability for Internet Companies

Becoming Positive about Being Carbon Neutral: Requiring Public Accountability for Internet Companies

Alexandra L. Pichette · 14 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 425

Abstract

Every year, worldwide dependence on Internet and other information technology services grows. In many ways, the increased use of electric energy is positive for the environment; after all, using the Internet to access a document uses less energy than printing and distributing that document. Nonetheless, Internet companies expend a great deal of energy when they, for example, fire up their servers to satisfy a search request. Studies show that Internet companies are disproportionately large energy consumers, and are responsible for a growing number of carbon emissions. As a result, environmentalists are becoming concerned about the effects of these emissions on climate change. Despite this concern, Internet companies’ carbon emissions are not only unregulated, they are largely unknown: because the emissions are indirect—or “Scope 2”—they are not included in the EPA’s mandatory reporting requirement for large-scale, direct emissions. Because Internet companies lack incentive to report their own numbers, policymakers do not receive accurate data regarding these emissions. Internet companies also make unverified claims about their “greenness,” potentially influencing public choice unfairly. In addition to being potentially unethical, companies claiming that they are “green” without having to show establishment of more efficient energy procedures, will not be incentivized to reduce their emissions. This Note advocates for a federal, mandatory reporting requirement that encompasses Scope 2 emissions.