In a stunning example of corporate discrimination, Google said it will no longer make artificial intelligence (AI) tools for the oil and gas industry’s use in extracting fossil fuels.
The tech giant bowed to pressure from Greenpeace after the environmental group published a report shaming the company and other tech industry icons Microsoft and Amazon for selling their services to oil and gas companies like Chevron and ExxonMobile. Greenpeace leadership was pleased with Google’s decision, but not fully satisfied.
“While Google still has legacy contracts with oil and gas firms that we hope they will terminate, we welcome Google’s move to no longer create custom solutions for upstream oil and gas extraction,” Greenpeace rep Elizabeth Jardim said, in a statement presumably written on a computer encased in plastic, which is derived primarily from crude oil.
Reading from the statement typed on a keyboard made of compressed coal, natural gas or oil, Jardim continued, “We hope Microsoft and Amazon will quickly follow with commitments to end AI partnerships with oil and gas firms, as these contracts contradict their stated climate goals and accelerate the climate crisis.”
A Google spokesperson, reading from a statement on paper made from trees felled by gas-powered machinery and printed with petroleum-rich ink, confirmed the move to CNBC. Google “will not … build custom AI/ML algorithms to facilitate upstream extraction in the oil and gas industry,” the spokesperson said.
The oil and gas industry employs about 10 million Americans (at least before the coronavirus shutdown) – almost six percent of the nation’s workforce. Their products are used in everything from heart valves and artificial limbs, to golf balls and tennis rackets, to cell phones, perfume and clothing. (Click here for a broader list). Oil powers 98% of cars on American roads and 100% of commercial aircraft. It is the lifeblood of the world economy.
A passage from the Greenpeace report reads, “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.”
It’s almost as if they are trying to make that sound bad.
Microsoft, which has pledged to be “carbon negative” by 2030, isn’t quite ready to take the Greenpeace bait. A company spokesperson provided the following statement: “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. The reality is that the world’s energy currently comes from fossil fuels and, as standards of living around the world improve, the world will require even more energy. That makes realizing a zero-carbon future one of the most complex transitions in human history.”
In other words, buzz off.
Amazon did not provide a comment for the CNBC article.
The Greenpeace report goes on to suggest there’s never been a better time to transition to greener energy sources, given the struggles oil companies and their employees are currently facing. There’s a nearly detectable tone of glee in the author’s description of the impact of the coronavirus and the Saudi-Russian production glut on the American oil industry.
It’s shameful that Greenpeace advocates for the eradication of an industry that is vital to both our economy and our national security. It’s even more shameful that Google bowed to their pressure.