Google Says It Will Not Build Custom A.I. for Oil and Gas Extraction
A Greenpeace report details Silicon Valley’s ties to Big Oil — and spurs Google to take a step toward opting out
After a year of weathering criticism from tech workers, politicians, and activists over its oil industry contracts, Google has stated that it will not create new custom A.I. or machine learning algorithms that would help the oil and gas industry enhance its ability to extract fossil fuels.
“We will not … build custom A.I./ML algorithms to facilitate upstream extraction in the oil and gas industry,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement provided to OneZero. The declaration comes in response to a new Greenpeace report that details 14 separate contracts between three of the biggest tech companies — Google, Amazon, and Microsoft — and major oil firms.
Over the last two years, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services have inked deals with firms like Exxon, Chevron, and Total to use A.I. and automation to accelerate fossil fuel exploration and extraction, linking the last generation of the world’s richest, most powerful companies with the newest. Microsoft, Google, and Amazon have built web portals to entice oil and gas clients, and each company has set up divisions aimed at winning business from the oil industry. With a surfeit of disorganized, backlogged data, tapering production rates, and deep financial reserves, major oil corporations are attractive clients to cloud service providers.
After reports emerged last year that tech companies were courting oil firms, tech employees and activists pushed the tech companies to adopt more stringent climate policies. A significant climate change accountability movement emerged at Amazon, and smaller ones followed at Microsoft and Google, where workers walked off the job to participate in a climate strike. Google, in particular, has prided itself on its aggressive adoption of clean energy. In 2018, the company announced it had hit a hallmark of “buying enough renewable energy to match 100 percent of Google’s global annual electricity use.” But the tech-oil deals continued apace. The same week Microsoft made a public pledge to go “carbon negative,” the company also sponsored an oil conference in…