Greenpeace Climate Activists Take on Silicon Valley: Slam Big Oil Connections

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

Published: 05-19-2020

Executive Summary

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%)[5]—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.

Conclusion

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.

66 thoughts on “Greenpeace Climate Activists Take on Silicon Valley: Slam Big Oil Connections

  1. “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.”

    The problem is that there is a lot of oil down there and it is under sufficient pressure that it tends to seep out anyway directly into ecosystems both in oceans and in land, kind of like oil spills. Oil and gas production is beneficial in that it reduces seepage into ecosystems.

    https://tambonthongchai.com/2019/08/27/carbonflows/

      • Note to Greenpeace.org :
        The COVID 19 lockdown has done far more damage to Oil Prices and Oil Company solvency than any virtue signalling XR nut case or hypocritical Green Nutter.
        If you (Green Nutters) want to eliminate Oil and Gas as energy sources, and the Vast Majority of people truly believe as you do, then your solution has been proven. STOP USING FOSSIL FUELS NOW. No Green New Deal legislation is required.
        If you think fossil energy is bad, get off your car too ample hypocritical derriere, quit complaining, and stop utilizing fossil fuels and petrochemical related materials.
        OR
        Shut it

        If 90% of the populace truly believes as BIG GREEN claims then fossil energy utilization will end if they stop using it.

    • Mark,
      A quick guide to class warfare. Amazon’s boss Jeff Bezos is currently the world’s richest person,
      prior to that Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft held that spot. The founders of google are also
      billionaires. All three companies are well known for poorly treated staff (amazon packers have appalling working standards) and for avoiding taxes through complicated off-shore arrangements that while
      technically legal deprive governments of billions of tax dollars that could be used to help the poor.
      Suggesting that Microsoft, Amazon and Google are part of the left rather than the prime targets shows
      a complete ignorance of the basics of class struggle.

      • Once again Izaak proves that the left knows nothing about anything.
        These guys can’t be of the left because they are rich.
        That’s rich.

        Class warfare is just a fairy tale that the left invented to justify it’s desire to demonize those who are successful.

        Anyone who actually checks into the positions of these companies and their founders would recognize that they are creatures of the left. Anywho, mistreating the little people has been SOP for the left since the days that Stalin and Mao starved millions of their own citizens for the sins of not being convenient.

        • Mark,
          Do any of Amazon, Microsoft, Google support unions? Encourage their employees to unionise?
          Amazon routinely fires workers who try to unionise. They are so far from being a leftwing company they are almost the poster child of capitalism. Microsoft and google are similar. And while their owners and the companies might be socially liberal, economically they are as right wing as it goes.

          • You mean they answer to shareholders who want profits …. you might want to look up the roll of a public company 🙂

          • Once again, Izaak demonstrates his complete inability to understand anything outside the meme he’s been trained in.

            Beyond that, he’s one of the few people in the world who still believes that being unionized is good for workers.

            Opposing unions makes one an uber capitalist.
            That’s so stupid that only a socialist could come up with it.

          • Izaak,

            “Amazon routinely fires workers who try to unionise”

            routinely – regularly, as part of the usual way of doing things

            I have not delved into Amazon, nor it’s employee actions, but I am pretty sure that you are full of shit.

            I suggest that I put up $50,000 to your $2,000; winner take all; loser pays for the independent analysis of your claim; WUWT gets $1,000 introducing us.

            Let me know.

          • Izaak Walton
            May 21, 2020 at 9:41 pm

            Do any of Amazon, Microsoft, Google support unions? Encourage their employees to unionise?
            =================================================
            Well Bernie Sanders wouldn’t pay his campaigners the minimum wage of $15/hour he demands for others until it was leaked to the press. Obviously Sanders is no leftist (by your logic). What Mark is trying to teach you is that in the real world, where Capitalism is the natural economic order, failing communists naturally resort to it. –AGF

        • Yes but they all own media companies that spout left wing views therefore they cannot be evil.

      • Izaak: “the basics of class struggle

        Class struggle was, and is, a convenient fraud; a front for useful idiots, Izaak; pretty window dressing disguising the lust for power.

        And what did it bring.

        Alan Charles Kors on youtube: “Socialism’s Legacy.” Millions, and millions, and millions of dead. That’s what it brought.

        Which the left in its direct guilt has never confronted, and for which the left has never apologized.

        Nomenklatura fat cats in the Communist East.

        It’s hard to credit the continued existence of such political meatheadism as you evidence Izaak but the reminders are undeniable.

        • Pat,
          In 2011 Warren Buffet made the comment “actually, there’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years, and my class has won. We’re the ones that have gotten our tax rates reduced dramatically.” The rich “lust for power” just as much as anyone and they have the means and the ability to deliver. Inequality in the USA and the UK has been steadily rising and the poor are losing.

          • Now we have evidence that there are two people in the world who are still stupid enough to believe that class struggle defines everything.

            PS, Lrp has it right, the real motivation behind socialism is envy. Losers who whine that those who work hard are being rewarded with lots of stuff.

          • Izaak, why should anyone care about Warren Buffet’s sociological opinions?

            Given your admission of a general “lust for power,” by what logic should you support socialism, when it concentrates all power in governing elites?

            Here is an Excel Table of Households by Total Money Income: 1967 to 2018 (~1.0 MB).

            It shows that the number of households earning low salaries has fallen, while the number of higher earning households have risen, across 51 years. So, while income disparity has risen, that is merely an indication that the entire society has become richer. Poverty across all classes has fallen.

            2.2 MB General Summary

            The average US poverty rate was 11.8% in 2018 — the last year data is available. The US is doing better than Spain, France, the UK, Germany and Sweden, among others.

            The poor in the US are doing better. They’re not losing.

            Really Izaak, you never seem to get it right.

          • Nice work Pat thank you, however, I can’t access the Excel data link. There may be some issue with the HTML code, not sure.

            Would you mind relinking below?

      • “.. deprive governments of billions of tax dollars that could be used to help the poor.”
        Thus do you impeach yourself as an ignorant Big State Stupper.

        • Peter,
          Amazon last year paid an effective tax rate of 1.2%. The average american worker had a tax rate
          of 14%. Do you really think that such a tax system is fair or equitable? Currently there are
          so many loopholes that let large multinational companies avoid paying tax by shifting profits
          from one juristriction to another that they pay far less tax than individuals or smaller companies that are resticted to a single country. This shifts the burden for paying for things like roads, bridges as well as medical care onto the poor and small businesses, while the rich reap the benefits.

          • They do employ lots of people though who do pay tax so the amount of tax that is generated by the company is actually bigger than you acknowledge and the more employees a company has the more of a contribution is made overall. It is much easier to pay tax and but stuff if you actually have a job. And it is ALWAYS stupid to directly bite the hand that feeds you like those idiot Amazon employees.

          • Quilter,
            that arguement doesn’t hold since what is at stake is the relative amount of tax paid by
            buisnesses. If you own a small buisness that does all of its business inside the USA you will not be able to take advantage of any of the loopholes that companies like Amazon can exploit. Which gives them an unfair competitive advantage. On top of which they do not pay many of their employees a living wage. In Washington state Amazon has a higher percentage of employees eligible for foodstamp than any other company. So Amazon is both denying the government tax revenues while at the same time adding to the tax burden by paying stravation wages.

            None of this should be surprising. You don’t get to be the richest person in the world by being nice and paying people a fair wage.

          • that arguement doesn’t hold since what is at stake is the relative amount of tax paid by
            buisnesses.

            The argument does hold because no US business worth it’s name pays any tax regardless of whether or not they write a check each year to the IRS. Their customers pay that tax. It’s built into the pricing of their products and services.

            Taxing an American corporation like Amazon, where so many of the poorest in our country order their products can only be regressive, and regressive taxation isn’t progressive philosophy.

            You seem to contradict yourself by supporting it.

          • The idea that you can anthropomorphize a corporation and have “it” pay taxes is absurd. If we tax corporations they pass their costs on to the consumer (people) or fire or reduce labor costs (people) or reduce profits so lower return on shareholder investments (people) or reduce salaries for top management (people) or take any other number of actions, which only have meaning in how they impact people. However, taxing corporations is a great way for governments to disguise the pain of extracting money from the economy. It doesn’t do it rationally or effectively, but no one sees the direct affect of the taxes on their paycheck, so its a palatable, though generally regressive means of taxation.

          • Companies don’t pay taxes, they just pass them on in the form of lower wages and higher prices.

            Only someone without any knowledge of human nature or economics would believe that higher taxes help poor people.

          • “…Amazon last year paid an effective tax rate of 1.2%. The average american worker had a tax rate
            of 14%. Do you really think that such a tax system is fair or equitable? …”

            What did the average Amazon worker pay in taxes? Amazon revenue goes towards paying employees, who pay taxes…see how this works? Oh I am sure Amazon exploits loopholes to get a more favorable taxation position by doing dastardly things like offering benefits to employees that earn deductions or credits.

        • Izaack Walton- why is basic stuff in Washinton state so expensive that people can’t afford to live there on a decent wage?

          If there weren’t such high taxes, benefit programs, regulations, highly paid legislators and bureaucrats, more people would be able to live there.

          • Obviously, it’s because taxes aren’t high enough.
            Once the tax rate hits 100% everything will be free and nobody will ever have to work again.

      • Izaak:

        Suggesting that Microsoft, Amazon and Google are part of the left rather than the prime targets shows a complete ignorance of the basics of class struggle.

        Help me understand in which camp, if any, according to you these three fall?

        • Sycomputing,
          Microsoft, Amazon and Google are three large multinational companies that actively persue
          anti-union activities, egage in unethical practices to gain market share and exploit their status as the dominant player. Claiming they are leftwing is like claiming Standard Oil was leftwing. Do not confuse advocating for socially liberal positions with being economically leftwing.

          • Claiming they are leftwing is like claiming Standard Oil was leftwing.

            I didn’t make any claim. I’m asking YOU what your thoughts are.

            So again, help me understand where, in your view, these three companies fall in the political spectrum.

          • Syscomputing,
            The companies do not have a political position. They actively lobby all politcal parties around the globe for legislation that helps them grow. If I had to guess it in the USA it would be a toss-up between supporting Trump’s business tax cuts and opposing his tarifs and his US first policy (which cuts into any multinational’s profits). In the EU google actively lobbies against leftwing policies like the “right to be forgotten” and the fact that it has to pay to link to content from traditional media while Amazon demands the right to sell products from tax havens while employing as few people as possible and refusing their demands to unionise. All of which look like the activities of right-wing organisations.

          • The companies do not have a political position. They actively lobby all politcal parties around the globe for legislation that helps them grow.

            Ok fair enough. Naturally your argument would presuppose that along with lobbying, political contributions to “all political parties” would be relatively equal wouldn’t you agree?

            You’d agree with me that one wouldn’t expect representatives of political parties to be responsive to words without money. If lobbying is equalized among parties, then so must also the money be equalized. So e.g., in the US, we’d have to see equal contributions to Republicans and Democrats using your assumptions would we not?

          • Sycomputing,
            in 2018 Amazon’s PAC gave 52% of its funding to republicans and 48% to democrats. While in 2018 Amazon employees gave 1.25 million to democrats and 800k to republicans. At least according to the info I could find. Which supports the idea that large companies tend to lobby both parties roughly equally. And equally it means there tends to be no significant different between the policies of both parties. Obama had an adminstration overwhelming influenced by wall street and seemed to have a revolving door direct into Goldman Sachs. Bush’s administration was exceedingly similar and so there was essentially no difference in their economic policies.

          • Which supports the idea that large companies tend to lobby both parties roughly equally.

            Lobbying isn’t the same thing as contributing. You’re not looking in the right place.

            Microsoft Corp. contribution history:

            https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/totals?id=D000000115

            Alphabet Inc. contribution history:

            https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/totals?id=D000067823

            Google, Inc. contribution history:

            https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/totals?id=D000022008

            Amazon, Inc. contribution history:

            https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/totals?id=D000023883

            Since by your own admission you’ve said that contributions should be equal among political parties if these companies have no political affiliation, it looks as though something is wrong with your assumptions.

          • Companies lobby those who have power. After all, what good does it do to lobby someone who can’t help you.
            When the party in power changes, so does the focus of lobbying.

            Looks like we have yet another thing that Izaak doesn’t understand.

      • The annual average salary at Google is $114,000, Facebook is $119,000, Amazon is $114,073 and for Microsoft Corp employees is $119,074.
        It’s a bit hard to find an average for US but the median is around $50,000 per annum.
        In any case the employees at Google etc. are hardly among the proletariat.

      • Looks like someone really drank the Kool-aid.

        The only class struggle the ‘elite’ see is us vs them. And as AI improves, they care less and less about us.

        If the left didn’t exist, the ‘elite’ would have to create them. And often did.

  2. 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.”

    What a shame compared to Greenpeace, who undoubtedly use bikes, horses and sailboats for transportation, and never use telephone or TV. Who are you kidding?

  3. Consumption is the problem Eric, not production. See how much fossil fuel is produced if nobody buys it. Green Peace and other activists’ approach is to blame big oil because they can’t blame the consumer and still have the consumer support them. Tell Granny she can’t heat her home for the winter, have regular showers ,or electricity on demand and see what happens. We’ve seen a 6% reduction in fossil fuel use since the start of the Covid lock down, and we’re told that consumption has to fall by an additional 7% each and every year to 2030 to meet Paris goals. Good luck with that. That’s where the hypocrisy lies. Greenpeace et al needs to tell their public what sacrifices they need to make and stop all the pissing and moaning about production . C’mon Greenpeace “I dare you”

  4. All things considered, computers are insanely cheap and ubiquitous. I remember opening a cheap toaster to fix the bimetal strip and discovering that it was apparently less expensive to use a computer chip.

    I can’t think of anything that will seriously hinder Big Oil’s use of computer power. You can build your own super computer out of a bunch of video cards or gaming consoles if you so choose. example

  5. Greenpeace – the organization that fights for technology that doesn’t green anything, while denouncing the technology that does.

    I wish skeptics knew how to shame people with zombie-like vigour just like their enemies.

    • It is really high time to declare legally Greenpace as a terrorist organisation. Greenpace will dominate the world without any political legitimation only on the basis of self-appointment. Of course this is very “democratic” and called “progressive liberalism” (aka dictatorship).

  6. Actually, renewable only account for about 1% of available energy. It’s also impractical. You would need to cover half the land mass of the entire planet with solar panels and half the oceans with wind turbines. No what we need is something better. We need nuclear fusion!

  7. RE: “With less than ten years to dramatically cut emissions, in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, …..”
    Uhm, no. The Greenpeace accusations do not look well researched. Just more of the same “Repent! The End Is Nye!” baseless fear mongering.

  8. “As the oil and gas industry confronts the end of the oil age”

    Oh yeah ? Seriously ? How will the climate elite jet to their junkets ? On electric battery powered jets ? And where do we put the batteries, in a towed sailplane ? Yes ? Go ahead, try it out, make my day.

    Being polite is one thing, stating reality, another. Because happens, that over time, each and every possible energy source has been put on wings with very variable results.

    And somehow, how funny, Kerosene , with a capital “K” is what consistently works best.

    There’s something about power and energy densities that only uneducated idiots have trouble to figure out.

    Precisely, because educational material is widely available, no specific permit is needed (yet !) to access it and only idiots will overlook this opportunity while it lasts.

  9. Big oil and gas companies can and do keep most of their data, which is highly valuable and proprietary, in house.

  10. Any organisation that demands the banning of new or established technology is about as good an example of Luddite thinking as it gets.
    Why stop with blocking computers? How about stopping the use of those JCB things that dig big holes and trenches so quickly? A man or two or more with picks and shovels can do the job just as well, be paid to work at the trench digging and take at least fifty times as long to get the job done.
    Think how much tax those human diggers would be paying….

  11. But CO2 doesnt devastate the planet, it is good for it. Mild warming and a huge increase in plant growth.

  12. A new concept: Climate Destruction. First you change it then you destruct it, make it disappear. A world without climate, what bliss. The woke will have to find a new cause. I wonder what it will be.

  13. anyone that thinks the engineers at oil companies use web servers on the cloud to do their analysis and calculations is ignorant … and the last time I checked, selling oil and gas products is not something you go to a web page for … and the whole AI angle is silly …

  14. The oil business has, almost since its inception, been the most high tech business around. From hydraulics, metallurgy, chemistry, remote sensing and computing. Remember the silicon chip was invented by an oil service company in Texas. If the greens are just figuring this out…

  15. Has anyone checked to see how much greenhouse gas Greenpeace spews into the air to produce and distribute their propaganda?

  16. From the article: “With less than ten years to dramatically cut emissions in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate change”

    You shouldn’t have said that. Now you lock yourself in. We’ll see you in ten years.

  17. Greenpeace pot meats kettle, expresses anger and dismay.
    Meanwhile, Skeptics/Climate Realists order more popcorn.

  18. “Cloud” based apps are very sexy, but you need to understand that once they get your data, it is like Hotel California, you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave.

    There is a real reason why having your own server gives you a level of security which you cannot find in the “Cloud”. Yes, it does cost more and yes you better pay whomever manages it a going rate, but you will have total control of your own data.

    Read the fine print, you will be shocked at the cost of moving to another platform…

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