In 2016, Amazon.com pledged to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind.
On its face, the goal is ridiculous: data centers — as well as warehouses and corporate headquarters — require the uninterrupted flow of electricity. Technologies like solar and wind, which abruptly stop working when it becomes cloudy or windless, can't provide that.
But now, Amazon's commitment to renewables is at risk of becoming more than mere greenwashing: it could kill 90 percent of Ohio's clean power, destroy 1,400 high-paying jobs, and make the state the most-polluted in the nation.
The reason why is simple. Ohio's two nuclear plants could soon be forced to close due to their exclusion from government and corporate subsidies for solar and wind, including Amazon's policy, which is using Ohio's renewable energy credits to meet its goal.
Now, Ohio community leaders, climate scientists including James Hansen, environmentalists including Whole Earth Catalog Stewart Brand, and prominent high-tech leaders are urging Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos, to change Amazon's definition of renewables to include nuclear, and save Ohio's nuclear plants.
"If Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants close, Ohio would likely have the third smallest share of clean energy and the highest rate of premature deaths from particulate matter in the nation. You have the power to prevent such an unfortunate outcome from occurring."
If the plants close, Ohio would suffer a net loss of jobs. Already the state imports 20 percent of its electricity. If it closes the plants, it will import even more electricity — and keep coal plants on-line longer, notes Julian Spector of Greentech Media:
"If the nukes close, new gas would most likely fill in the gap, rather than replacing more carbon-intense coal generation. The resulting energy mix would be one of the most fossil fuel-heavy in the nation, contributing to negative health outcomes in addition to economic losses for the communities that host the plants."
Real lives are at stake. Chronic unemployment is fueling the worst methamphetamine epidemic in the history of the state. Overdose deaths up 20 percent this year. One morgue had to rent a 20-foot long air-conditioned trailer just to store all the additional bodies.
One of the signers of the letter to Bezos is Guy Parmigian, the 40 year-old superintendent of schools near Davis-Besse. I met him last month and what the impact would be on schools if the plant closed.
"Awful," he said. "Not only for the families but the community at large."
It is hard to believe that Bezos — who just became the world's second richest man, and is pro-nuclear — won't do the right thing. But he'll need our support.
Second, please consider making a donation to cover the cost of flying Superintendent Parmigian and other Ohio community leaders to Seattle to meet with Bezos, and make their case.
Finally, please spread the word. Share this article with friends and family, and urge them to sign the petition, and make a donation.
Working together, we can save Ohio's largest source of clean energy, and prompt an even bigger reform of corporate energy procurement policies.
As Spector notes, corporate purchasing of renewables constituted 20 percent of all renewables added in 2015.
Google has already said it would include nuclear in its definition of clean energy. If Amazon follows, then it will only be a matter of time before Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and many other companies follow.