Google considers cutting production of AI tools for fossil fuel firms

Joanna Estrada
May 22, 2020

The pledge comes after a Greenpeace report published on Tuesday highlighted how United States tech giants are helping oil and gas firms find fossil fuels around the world.

A Greenpeace report released on Tuesday claimed that oil and gas is becoming increasingly dependent on cloud technology to discover oil and that Google, Amazon and Microsoft's contracts with these companies might be in contradiction with their independent climate pledges.

The three tech giants were accused of helping the likes of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, British Petroleum Co.Ltd, Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. extract gas and oil faster and therefore undermining their own commitment to reducing carbon emissions. "But we will not, for instance, build custom AI / ML (machine learning) algorithms to facilitate upstream extraction in the oil and gas industry".

The spokesperson pointed out that the company receives just $65million in annual revenue through Google Cloud from oil and gas companies, less than one percent of the total revenue from cloud services.

Greenpeace applauded Google's decision.

In 2018, Google announced grand plans to become a critical player in the digital transformation of the oil and gas industry.

Accenture estimates that advanced analytics and modelling could generate at much as $425bn in value for the oil and gas sector by 2025. Greenpeace further noted that Microsoft and Amazon hold far more contacts than Google. Their tools have been deployed to speed up shale extraction, especially from the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico. It said, "Microsoft appears to be leading the way with the most oil and contracts, offering AI capabilities in all phases of oil production".

The Greenpeace report on Big Tech's Big Oil exposed 14 contracts that Google, Microsoft and Amazon had with different oil companies.

In response to the findings, Microsoft published a blog statement on Tuesday that emphasised the company's commitment to be carbon negative by 2030 and remove all the carbon emitted since founding by mid-century.

"We agree that the world confronts an urgent carbon problem and we all must do more and move faster to reach a net zero carbon future", Microsoft wrote.

Amazon, which has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2040, had not replied to a request for comment ahead of this article's publication.

What we're watching via Axios' Amy Harder: It's too soon to tell whether Google proves to be an outlier or an early indicator of a trend, but one thing is clear now: Environmentalists will be ramping up the pressure on other tech giants and companies in other sectors to sever ties with oil and gas firms now that they've had success with one.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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