ExxonMobil and Microsoft announced last week that they are partnering in the “largest-ever oil and gas” deal to use cloud computing, which the corporations say will boost production up to 50,000 barrels of oil per day by 2025.
Microsoft likes to tout how it’s running its operations on 100 percent renewable energy and embracing the Paris climate agreement. The company’s founder, Bill Gates, also portrays himself as a champion of climate action.
But the tech giant is working overtime to close deals with the world’s biggest oil companies to help them boost fossil fuel production using the latest information technology, such as cloud computing, which enables companies to capture, store, and analyze vast amounts of data in real time.
And Microsoft isn’t alone. Many of the most well-known tech giants we think of as green and sustainable — including Amazon and Google — are helping the dirtiest polluters increase production of climate-destroying fossil fuels, as Gizmodo’s Brian Merchant has pointed out.
So while these tech giants tout their public support for the Paris climate agreement, they are working to undermine its central achievement — that the world’s nations unanimously agreed to leave most of the world’s fossil fuels in the ground. Preserving a livable climate requires heroic efforts to slash fossil fuel use, not cynical efforts to produce even more.
“These actions by these so-called responsible actors on climate illustrate the futility in relying on corporations to act to address climate change,” environmental sociologist Robert Brulle told ThinkProgress in an email. “Profitability, not any concern about the planet and its future, drives their actions.”
For instance, Google launched a new oil, gas, and energy division in 2018 “to court the oil and gas industry,” the Wall Street Journal reported last summer. It’s headed by Darryl Willis, who worked at BP for nearly three decades. And it has already made deals with oil giants like Anadarko Petroleum and France’s Total, and oilfield services companies like Schlumberger and Baker Hughes.
In September, Google announced a major deal with a Houston energy investment bank. The goal of this partnership is to “cut costs in the wake of the oil bust and remain competitive as electric vehicles and renewable power sources gain market share,” according to The Houston Chronicle.
In short, Google is helping dirty energy compete with clean energy.
“Google’s motto was once ‘Don’t Be Evil,'” leading climatologist Michael Mann told ThinkProgress in an email. “It appears they’ve dropped the ‘Don’t.’ It is time for them to cease and desist in serving as enablers of climate destruction.”
Ironically, when Google was criticized last month by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) for supporting a conference promoting climate science denial, a Google spokesperson replied, “Google has long been a leader in sustainability. Since 2007, we have operated as a carbon neutral company and in 2017, we reached 100 percent renewable energy for our global operations.”
Google clearly has a different definition of “leader in sustainability” and “carbon neutral company” if it includes helping Big Oil produce more climate-destroying, carbon-intensive fossil fuels.
Finally, Amazon Web Services, the largest provider of cloud computing in the world, has its own “Oil & Gas” division. Amazon promises it can help Big Oil “unleash innovation to optimize production and profitability.” It already does work with GE’s oil business and oil giants like Royal Dutch Shell and BP.
Those hoping the tech giants would help lead the world into a carbon-free future based on their climate-friendly press releases and renewable energy purchases, will need to look elsewhere for true climate action leadership.
As Brulle put it, these companies care about profits more than the planet — they will never be the answer to our climate crisis. “To have real action on climate change requires strong government action to break our reliance on fossil fuels,” he said.