Guest essay by Eric Worrall
h/t Dr. Willey Soon; Looks like someone in Greenpeace was paying attention, when disgruntled Amazon workers were fired for demanding Amazon ditch big oil cloud computing clients.
Oil in the Cloud
How Tech Companies are Helping Big Oil Profit from Climate Destruction
As the oil and gas industry confronts the end of the oil age and deteriorating earnings, major oil corporations such as Shell, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and others have turned to the cloud giants and their high powered computing capabilities to find and extract more oil and gas and reduce production costs. Despite the biggest cloud companies’ commitments to address climate change, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon all have connections to some of the world’s dirtiest oil companies for the explicit purpose of getting more oil and gas out of the ground and onto the market faster and cheaper.
Contracts between tech firms and oil and gas companies are now found in every phase of the oil and gas production chain and are significantly undermining the climate commitments that Microsoft, Google, and Amazon have made.
A devastating partnership for the climate
Cloud computing and AI software aid the discovery, extraction, distribution, refining, and marketing of oil and gas. Technological innovations from hydraulic fracturing to horizontal drilling have helped drive the U.S. shale boom, and as a result, oil and gas deposits that were once considered too risky or expensive are now being opened for extraction. Cloud companies are facilitating data-driven innovations to build on these advances by identifying efficiencies and boosting oil and gas production.
This report exposes how the three largest cloud companies—Amazon (33% market share), Microsoft (18%), and Google (8%)—are partnering with oil companies to use artificial intelligence technologies to unlock oil and gas deposits in the U.S. and around the world. This report does not offer an exhaustive list of all machine learning contracts between cloud and oil companies, but showcases 14 relationships that explicitly aim to optimize oil production.
While Microsoft, Google, and Amazon each have commitments to reduce their own carbon emissions and invest in renewable energy, they’re undermining these goals by facilitating the expansion of new oil and gas extraction, which locks the world into greater global carbon emissions and delays the necessary transition to renewable energy.
With less than ten years to dramatically cut emissions in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, tech companies that court oil firms or support them with high-powered computation capabilities are putting their feet on the accelerator to catastrophic warming. If Microsoft, Amazon, and Google are serious about their roles in addressing the climate crisis, they must stop pursuing business deals that fuel the expansion of the fossil fuel industry, create fossil fuel lock-in, and further jeopardize the future of the planet. They must start planning now to end their most destructive contracts, including enabling oil and gas expansion in the Permian Basin, and phase out all upstream, midstream, and downstream AI and cloud services contracts with the fossil fuel industry.
Read more: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/reports/oil-in-the-cloud/
The Greenpeace accusations look well researched. Microsoft, Amazon and Google handle a vast share of the world’s computing services through their cloud computing services, including the computing needs of big oil.
Over the last decade or so, the three tech giants have transformed the world’s computing industry.
In the old days if you wanted a new web server or web accessible computer, you had to either rent some space in someone’s web connected server rack, pay for your own insanely expensive high end connection to the internet, or sublet access from someone who had taken on the expense of renting a server.
Microsoft, Amazon and Google changed all that. Nowadays you rent just the computing power you need, in many cases with generous free tiers, and let Silicon Valley take care of all the hassle of maintaining the physical computer equipment.
Although profitable on a large enough scale, the cloud computing game is ultra competitive. There are differences, but from a corporate perspective the cloud services the three tech giants offer are broadly interchangeable.
All three tech giants require vast amounts of cheap, reliable energy to keep all those computers and cooling systems running, and to stay competitive with their rivals.
Obviously Greenpeace’s premise that oil extraction is a problem or that renewables are any kind of solution is complete nonsense, but in my opinion Greenpeace are likely right that the big players they mentioned are being utter hypocrites about their climate commitments, quietly putting profit ahead of their noisy public statements of climate piety.
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