Google considers cutting production of AI tools for fossil fuel firms

Yolanda Curtis
May 23, 2020

Google says it will certainly no more build custom-made expert system tools for accelerating oil and gas removal, dividing itself from cloud computer competitors Microsoft and Amazon.

Google's revenues from oil and gas in 2019 were roughly $65m, accounting for less than 1pc of its total Google Cloud revenues. Moreover, Google also noted that oil companies will be allowed to use its cloud computing for data storage and general IT operations.

"While Google still has a few legacy contracts with oil and gas firms, we welcome this indication from Google that it will no longer build custom solutions for upstream oil and gas extraction", stated Elizabeth Jardim, elderly company advocate for Greenpeace U.S.A.

Of note: Google's announcement dropped alongside a Greenpeace report released Tuesday that detailed cloud computing and AI contracts between Google, Microsoft and Amazon and oil and gas companies.

Greenpeace applauded the new commitment.

A statement from the company Tuesday followed a Greenpeace report that documents how the three tech giants are using AI and computing power to help oil companies find and access oil and gas deposits in the US and around the world.

These AI services will provide a "critical toolkit" for fossil fuel companies looking to bounce back from the industry's current downturn, Greenpeace warned.

Accenture estimates that advanced analytics and modelling could generate at much as $425bn in value for the oil and gas sector by 2025.

The Greenpeace report singled out Microsoft as the most heavily entangled with fossil fuel companies, specifically pointing to a recent contract with ExxonMobil to help expand its extraction activities in the Permian Basin, which stretches across New Mexico and west Texas.

Microsoft published a blog statement Tuesday that didn't address Greenpeace's claims but emphasized the company's commitment to remove from the air all the carbon it has ever emitted by 2050. "The reality is that the world's energy now comes from fossil fuels and, as standards of living around the world improve, the world will require even more energy".

"The Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud is the largest in the world, the virtual home to millions of websites, and is now being used by oil and gas firms to get oil to market more efficiently", Greenpeace said.

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.

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