Tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft are providing cloud computing services and AI support for oil and gas companies. It not only accelerates the location and extraction of fossil fuels but also makes them appear on the market faster and cheaper. According to GreenPeace reports, these technology companies have contradicted with their commitments to address climate change.
The following content is cited from "https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/reports/oil-in-the-cloud/". 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. Although it is difficult to isolate the specific impact of cloud computing and AI on production levels, it is clear that these new information technologies will play a key role in returning the industry to expansion. Accenture has estimated that advanced analytics and modeling could generate at much as $425 billion in value for the oil and gas sector by 2025. In one case, we found AI technologies could boost production levels by as much as 5%. Despite the crash in the price of oil, BloombergNEF predicts oil company spending on cloud computing and advanced analytics to increase from $2.5 billion in 2020 to $15.7 billion by 2030, mostly for the purposes of exploration and production. Capabilities which make it easier for oil companies to find and produce oil are a loss for the climate, yet none of the carbon emitted thanks to these advanced technologies are reflected in the tech companies’ published footprint data. All three tech companies appear to be aware of the disconnect between their stated climate goals and the real world climate impact of aiding the fossil fuel sector in becoming more productive and efficient. Indeed, since public awareness about these contracts has increased, all three companies have updated their websites to target the Energy Sector, rather than Oil & Gas explicitly. Microsoft appears to have the most contracts with oil and gas companies, offering AI capabilities in all phases of oil production. Microsoft can never truly achieve its recently announced “Carbon Negative” goal while continuing to aid the oil and gas sector with exploration and production. Microsoft’s contract with ExxonMobil alone could lead to emissions greater than 20% of Microsoft’s annual carbon footprint. Amazon has contracts in the mid and downstream phases of oil production, focusing on pipelines, shipping, and storage for oil and gas companies. 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. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently stepped up his company’s ambition on climate, announcing the Climate Pledge and his $10 billion Earth Fund. These efforts unfortunately ignore Amazon’s ongoing support of the fossil fuel sector with AI technologies. Google has undergone personnel and structural changes that seem to show Google is deprioritizing these contracts, stating recently it will no longer develop custom AI/ML solutions to facilitate upstream extraction for oil and gas companies. While this is a good first step, Google still needs to account for its existing involvement with oil and gas companies, and publicly commit to wind down these contracts. Much of this work is happening in the Permian Basin located in Texas and New Mexico, which has become the epicenter of the U.S. shale boom. The area contains vast oil and gas resources and enough potential carbon emissions to exhaust a significant share of our remaining carbon budget. Other regions where AI technologies are being deployed include the Atlantic Offshore, North Sea, Arctic, Gulf of Mexico, and the Tar Sands in Canada.
This report pointed out how AI technology could destroy our delicate environment further if we only care about promoting the economy.