Written by: Kimberly White

Google has pledged to no longer build custom artificial intelligence (AI) tools for oil and gas companies to extract fossil fuels from around the globe. 

In an interview with theCUBE, Google Cloud managing director Will Grannis stated that Google would not “develop custom AI/ML solutions to facilitate upstream extraction” for the oil and gas industry. Instead, the tech giant will focus on solutions to improve operations for renewable energy companies. 

A Google spokesperson reiterated the commitment in a statement to Medium’s OneZero following the publication of a Greenpeace report. The report details how Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are undermining their climate commitments by selling their technology to oil and gas companies to aid in fossil fuel extraction. 

“Undercutting all three of these companies’ climate plans is their ongoing partnerships with oil and gas firms. Big Tech has been wooing Big Oil with the promise that machine learning and other AI capabilities will help them find and extract oil and gas more effectively,” said Elizabeth Jardim, co-author of the report and Senior Corporation Campaigner for Greenpeace USA in January. “If we are to stave off further catastrophic warming, this is the decade that counts — it is not the time to bolster the industry that caused this problem in the first place.”

The report points out that Google has not accounted for the use of its technology by the oil and gas industry. According to a Google spokesperson, Google Cloud received approximately $65 million, less than one percent of its revenue, from oil and gas companies in 2019. 

However, Greenpeace has credited Google as being one of the most aggressive corporate buyers of renewable energy in the world. Google committed to 100 percent renewable in 2017 and has since purchased enough renewable energy to cover 100 percent of the tech firm’s global electricity usage annually. Overall, Google’s renewable energy capacity totals 5,500 MW

Microsoft responded to the Greenpeace report on their blog, defending their role with the oil and gas industry but also reiterating their current commitments and echoing the need to transition to a net-zero carbon future.  

“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,” said Microsoft. “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.”

Greenpeace applauded Google’s move to shift away from custom AI solutions for the oil and gas industry. The organization hopes that Amazon and Microsoft will follow Google’s lead.

“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,” said Jardim. “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.”

Header Image Credit: Zbynek Burival/Unsplash