Google and Amazon are now in the oil business

Google and Amazon are now in the oil business


On Earth Day 2019, Google posted this video
about the “urgency of radically addressing climate change in the next decade.” This is
Kate Brandt, she used to be Obama’s chief sustainability officer. Now she works to make
Google a global leader in “reducing or even eliminating our dependence on raw materials
or fossil fuels.” Google’s growing data centers need more energy every year. In 2012 just
34% of that power came from renewables. But by 2017, they got that up to 100 percent.
They’ve also managed to lower their total energy use with some help from a branch of
artificial intelligence called machine learning. A computer program takes in lots of data and
trains itself to operate the centers as efficiently as possible. Here’s energy use under human
supervision, and when the AI is in charge. The more data the AI trains on, the better
it gets at reducing energy use. But here’s the thing: This same technology can be used
to automate lots of other tasks, like fossil fuel discovery and extraction. And while Google
is using AI to increase the efficiency of its operation, it’s also using it to try and
get as much oil and gas out of the ground as possible. In 2018, Google hired Darryl
Willis, a veteran of British Petroleum, to lead its new oil, gas, and energy division.
Willis explained “our plan is to be the partner of choice for the energy industry.” They’ve
already signed a deal with Total, one of the world’s biggest oil companies, to develop
AI that will streamline oil and gas exploration and production. And Google’s not alone. Microsoft
and Amazon are also teaming up with the fossil fuel industry. Big Tech has entered the oil
business. On June 15, 1957, the citizens of Tulsa, Oklahoma buried a rather odd time capsule,
a brand new Plymouth Belvedere. Sealed inside among commemorative plates, ash trays, t-shirts,
and books that captured the spirit of the times, was a 16mm film reel. It showed a martian
visiting the United States and learning that oil and competition made the nation prosper.
Also included in the capsule were gasoline and motor oil. In 1957, it seemed like a very real
possibility that these products wouldn’t be around in 50 years when the Belvedere was
scheduled to be disinterred. Newspapers around the country were reporting that America’s
oil production would soon fall off. And as that cartoon martian learned, discoveries
of new reserves were rare. “Only one well in nine finds any oil at all. And only one
in almost a thousand makes a major discovery.” Oil has always been really hard to find. America’s
first oil well was drilled in 1859 near a particularly greasy creek in Pennsylvania.
It was obvious there was oil seeping up from the ground here, but it took Edwin Drake over
a year and all his money to find a measly little pocket of black gold. Still, his discovery
triggered an oil boom and a Pennsylvania paper was soon explaining that the substance could
“illuminate, lubricate, make candles, and cure most diseases from which humanity suffers.”
Not all of that proved true, but 100 years later, petroleum had given the world “fabrics,
toothbrushes, tires, insecticide, cosmetics, weed killers, a whole galaxy of things to
make a better life on Earth.” And of course, fuel. The energy needs of the world have risen
a lot since 1859. And from very early on there were fears that fossil fuels couldn’t meet
this demand. In 1909, some thought oil and gas would run out around 1937. In 1937, US
oil supplies were supposed to disappear by 1952. And so on, and so on, as fossil fuels
became more and more essential in every day life, predictions of a crash kept coming.
But somehow, the oil kept flowing. “I couldn’t imagine how this ever-increasing supply of
oil was achieved. Until I found out that there’s not just one but thousands of oil companies
all competing with each other to discover and develop new sources of oil.” From the
earliest days, competing companies invested in better technology to extract fossil fuels,
better drills, better pumps, and they developed better techniques for finding new oil reserves,
creating seismic vibrations to see underneath the ground, using satellite LIDAR to reveal
hidden structures, detecting subtle changes in the Earth’s gravity and magnetism. Thanks
in part to these advances, by 2007, when a very rusty Belvedere was exhumed, global oil
production was still on the rise. In the US, it did look like oil was finally petering
out, until investment in new technology, fracking and horizontal wells in vast shale formations,
brought it roaring back. Today, once again, if we just rely on current reserves and current
tech, oil production will start to falter, but if new technology lets us squeeze more
out of the reserves we already have and find new sources of oil, we’ll be able to meet
the growing demand. It’s just a matter of finding the next technological leap. Of course,
there’s a problem with using fossil fuels to meet the world’s energy needs. Climate
change. Oil, gas and coal are a time capsule of a different sort, sealing ancient carbon
deep below the Earth. When humans open that time capsule and burn those fossil fuels,
carbon reenters the atmosphere as the greenhouse gas CO2. Since 1859, CO2 levels have shot
up and so has the planet’s temperature. If we keep going like this, if we burn all the
fossil fuels we currently have access to, models suggest that the Earth could warm somewhere
between 6.4 and 9.5 degrees. And so climate activists say there’s only one thing to do.
“Keep it in the ground. Keep it in the ground. Keep it in the ground. Keep it in the ground.”
That’s easier chanted than done. Currently, the world relies on fossil fuels for 85 percent
of its energy needs. Keeping it in the ground will require a huge shift to renewables and
lower energy use in general. And big tech companies have publicly rushed to be part
of this effort. “Sustainability has been a core value since our founding.” “There had
been pockets of sustainability living within Amazon’s business since the very beginning.”
“One of the problems we can help solve is energy consumption.” “We can invent our way
out of this problem.” “Innovation is the key to solving this problem.” “We can put artificial
intelligence and digital technology to use to help our customers in every part of the
economy become more sustainable themselves.” It turns out that same artificial intelligence
technology is just what oil companies need to stay profitable. See the fossil fuel industry
has amassed lots and lots of valuable data as they’ve mapped Earth’s crust in search
of reserves. Take this patch of ocean floor in the North Sea. In 1989, Dutch geologists
painstakingly mapped the different rock layers using seismic scans. Researchers at IBM recently
fed all that seismic data into a machine learning algorithm and after about 10 minutes of training,
the AI was able to label the rock layers nearly as accurately as human experts. Another group
at Georgia Tech used machine learning to quickly identify structures important to oil discovery.
You could imagine how an AI could train itself with all kinds of data to pinpoint the best
places to drill. And once drilling begins, AI can streamline extraction to make it cheaper.
That kind of efficiency can help the oil and gas industry compete with renewables and so
it’s no surprise that they spent an estimated 1.75 billion dollars on AI in 2018. Google,
Microsoft, and Amazon are competing for a piece of that pie. Google has signed agreements
with several fossil fuel companies. Microsoft has teamed up with Exxon and Chevron, and
just hired Daryl Willis away from Google. And Amazon, who already provides cloud services
to BP and Shell is marketing its ability to accelerate and optimize exploration, drilling,
and production of oil and gas. While they talk up their commitment to sustainability,
big tech is making sure the world can keep burning plenty of fossil fuel. “And if you
have both of these things, any goal is possible. It’s destination unlimited.”

100 Comments

  1. Derek Finch says:

    Since Google and Yahoo is a part of the deep state isn't it in their benefits to take control over the fossil industry so they can extract even more profits and the millions across the planet by helping these companies increase the cost of supply to the consumer it is all about control and not working towards the benefit for the people of this planet it is about the Richmond of you and those who believe in the new world order and those who believe they are there to inherit the Earth why why destroy the Civilizations of the West her profit

  2. pakxenon says:

    Only USA democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has the ideas to turn incentives around to stop this kind of behaviour. We have to rewrite the rules of the 21st century economy to work for humans and the environment, not the bottom line of corporations and shareholders.

    You can't just SPLIT THEM UP or TAKE THEM HEAD ON if you don't change the underlying structure and root problems that led to this in the first place. It's wiser to convert the supposed "enemies" to our side if we are to combat climate change on a global scale.

  3. dD Lithuania says:

    Bill Gates is after all just another greedy businessman it seems.

  4. Bryan Hernandez says:

    Wow and Apple is the only one that did the opposite! Their stores run on 100% renewable energy & their new MacBooks and iPads aluminum’s are recycled!

  5. not paris hilton says:

    google: claims quantum supremacy

    … time to rule the world

  6. julius uzu says:

    You mean they have become oily characters.

  7. rahmad gerpol says:

    Trump : Drill, more drill baby

  8. Marvel Bound says:

    Naturally

  9. Just John says:

    That AI thing sounds like SkyNet😳

  10. Mary Fiquet says:

    Nicola Tesla had free, clean energy for the entire planet in the early 1900’s. This is no secret. Our government knows this thoroughly as do the various echelons operating behind the scenes

  11. Tasya Wamantassa says:

    This is what journalism is all about. Bringing the truth. Thank you Vox

  12. Game End says:

    Leviticus Cornwall

    Wants to know your location

  13. RoK Bottom Studios says:

    Oh shut up ,vox. You wanted google to monitor and ban anyone that uses speech you don't agree with consider this part of the deal with the devil.

  14. Fracking Starbuck says:

    People call google evil but how many of you use oil and gas products every day? are you evil too?

  15. Apple Tree says:

    I find it more disturbing that people have more of a problem with Google making money from oil and gas but not so much with them helping China spy on and terrorize their citizens.
    Ya’ll got standards alright. Twisted and low but, hey, they’re standards.

  16. Never Letmego says:

    2030: google starts WW3

  17. Just John says:

    Its official

    The human race is dead

  18. rad0ri says:

    Is it just me or does no one in the comments understand the benefits of AI towards the environmental impact of obtaining fossil fuel?

  19. Django - The D Is Silent says:

    :Insert mike wazuski face:

  20. Nerd in Disguise says:

    It named black gold not by any reason .. everyone is chasing it

    Everyone no exceptions

  21. Ruthie Morris says:

    Shameful, meanwhile I'm watching this on a Google owned platform, YouTube.

  22. FartherDude says:

    This can still be a good thing. The problem with renewable energy is efficiency and cost. Right now solar and wind are just not good enough to keep up with demand it is simply TOO expensive and not efficient enough to keep up with energy demands especially as we keep growing. Especially with the rise of electric cars energy will be used more than ever before. The only renewable source that produces the same energy outputs as fossil fuels that is somewhat cheap we know of is nuclear and it’s not popular. Oil and gas and coal have very high energy output and can sustain our energy situation. I’m not saying we can’t use solar or wind. Or that we shouldn’t try and get away from fossil fuels. I just think the idea we can just drop oil natural gas and even coal is ignorant. There’s a reason it works so well not just because of profit. Oil companies are one of the main reasons for batteries. They funded research because they were scared they would eventually run out one day. It stands right now that oil gas and coal produce the most amount of energy at the cheapest price. It’s simple economics. Sure wind and solar work for small scale energy but massive cities and ships and large vehicles will need fossil fuels for long periods of time. The raw materials used to create solar panels and wind meals are extracted with fossil fueled machines and then lubricated with oil and plastics made from oil. Car batteries materials are extracted using fossil fuels. Oil isn’t number one because profit. It’s number one because it has multiple uses with astounding efficiency and energy production.

  23. Salman Ahmed says:

    That's a slap on our faces by big tech.

  24. globalSchelmuffsky says:

    terrifying facts aside, i really like the edit, especially how sound was included.

  25. Samuel Preston says:

    I would just like to clarify that British Petroleum is NOT own by the British anymore. It hasn’t been for decades.

  26. fred burns says:

    stuff like this is why im still subbed to vox. its worth seeing ezra kleins annoying face once in a while. i hate that dude

  27. Sam says:

    Ah good one of Americas 7 corporations

  28. Mort Mort Mort says:

    9 minute video but it took until 8:01 to get to the part that actually involves google and amazon getting into oil
    nice bait

  29. Laura Call says:

    oiL???

  30. FaZe Jesus says:

    Adelaide in a YouTube video, we made it boys

  31. EnD3r 52 says:

    What's ironic about this is that YouTube (owned by Google) is recommending me a video criticising their own company… Thanks I guess…

  32. TheSenorPenguin says:

    Imagine if this kind of innovation and discovery was focused on… yknow, something good.

  33. soha ali says:

    Hypocrisy

  34. blitzwaffe says:

    People to tech companies: But we thought you wanted to be sustainable!
    Tech companies: Yes! Sustainable for the fossil fuel industry!

  35. sendal jepit says:

    When intelligence led by money maker tech company.

  36. Devon Kabus says:

    Gas station,2034
    What’ll it be, Google or Microsoft?
    Windows Premium please.

  37. The Soviet Kevin says:

    longest 8 minutes i sat through

  38. Suadela says:

    We just need them to combine and become the world ruling company ShinRa

  39. Pablo Penados says:

    Looks like they need freedom

  40. Jamal Amir says:

    "Ok Google, where is the nearest oil reserve"

  41. Son Nguyen Hoang says:

    What an irony

  42. Shae Cloud says:

    Enframing ^

  43. Exabella says:

    This is a great example of a good video from you guys

  44. whyFreezer says:

    In America, compared to coal, natural gasses and transportation, the oil business is not a big contributor to green house gasses. Coal, the burning of gas and the use of transportation create most of the green house gasses that have increased global warming. With that in mind, and considering how much we depend on oil and plastic products in our lives, I don't think its such a big deal that tech companies are working with the oil business to make them more efficient or safer.

  45. Jamal Amir says:

    Gen Xer: climate change is not real
    Google: OK boomer
    Google enters oil and gas in 2020
    Boober: hey Google
    pedew I'm Google, how may I help you
    Boomer: OK boomer
    OK google

  46. Vicary says:

    Let’s smash capitalism guys

  47. aneesh89 says:

    humans cannot survive without oil that's a fact

  48. Jamal Amir says:

    Hey Google, OK boomer

  49. Zohaib Javed says:

    Wow!!! Amazing work guys!!!

  50. wakamoly plays says:

    google:*uses ai to get oil
    google:H A X

  51. TOP EXPLORE says:

    Google should delete this Youtube channel. It's getting more and more hateful.-_-

  52. Mark Jackson says:

    What's wrong with companies like Google helping oil companies?
    It's better than running out of oil and forced into another war in the middle East or being friendly with Saudi Arabia.

  53. Max Boudreau says:

    Well, Earth is totally going to be destroyed because of humans.

  54. Rose Child says:

    Unoh

  55. Hee Hee says:

    Oh god oh no

  56. whatever you say fam says:

    Greta to her 13 Y/o fanbase:
    F E T C H M E T H E I R S O U L S

  57. Alan Brown says:

    They need this @hit to figure out that mystery at Oak Island…

  58. Zach Wolfe says:

    Supporting renewable energy and supporting efficient oil extraction techniques are not mutually exclusive; you could even argue that more efficient drilling techniques could prevent a lot of environmental damage compared to current techniques

  59. Kelly says:

    Google Be Like:Ladies and Gentleman I’m an oilman,but more importantly ladies and gentlemen I’m a family man,this is my son and my partner Amazon

  60. Sicao is dead says:

    Corporations are stronger than our Governments.

  61. guybravo says:

    This is part of the reason that Canada’s oil & gas development is being stagnated.

  62. Ben Stankovich says:

    In my view, demand is behind it all. Getting people off using oil will eliminate these economic drivers.

  63. Jack Barbey says:

    I’m sick of all this high horse reporting. Like it not, the world still runs in oil. Just wishing that weren’t the case will not instantly solve all of the technical problems that make the move to pure renewables virtually impossible at the moment. These companies are also working on projects to modernize infrastructure and reduce carbon output at the same time. So in the meantime, would you prefer that we keep drilling more wells in potentially more hazardous locations or would you prefer that we use available technology to optimize extraction and locate sources that may provide less environmental impact?

  64. G3T REKT says:

    R.I.P Earth 🌏🌎🌍

  65. Daboosat Plays says:

    3020:Amazon and Google are now in the space weapons business

  66. amontilladoxd says:

    State subsidies to oil industries might be one of the problems, 20bn dollars are given to oil industries every year in the USA.

    priceofoil. org/content/uploads/2017/10/OCI_US-Fossil-Fuel-Subs-2015-16_Final_Oct2017.pdf

  67. Jatin Hooda says:

    Nothing is going to happen. If you're thinking the world will become a better place eventually, you're day dreaming. Look at the nature of comments here. Everybody is taking it as a joke. Reflects one important thing, all of them will support it only and only if it is convenient, else who cares.

  68. Dani Brandy says:

    yeah… more oilspills! Corporations for president!

  69. Yash Kansal says:

    No body talks about consumption

    Reduce consumption not decades se production

  70. Jack Towers says:

    Oil is a wonderful useful thing it’s just the last thing you should do with it is use it for fuel

  71. Ananya Chadha says:

    And IBM

  72. Average Soviet Union Girl says:

    Don’t worry, Mr Beast will beat Google

  73. étienne mazur says:

    Making oil more efficient is a good thing WHATEVER your opinion on fossile fuel is. So I don't know why this video sounds so negative.

  74. Dawson Toulouse says:

    We need nuclear, not renewable.

  75. Ben Phillips says:

    Greenwashing on the largest scale

  76. Slumpy says:

    6:44 Bill Gates no longer works for Microsoft, he is working for sustainability through his philanthropy.

  77. princepeterwolf says:

    This is the stuff that makes me truly afraid and anxious daily

  78. inigojuancarlos says:

    It’s hitting our head with a hammer. It all boils down to profit margin.

  79. Daniel Swan says:

    Is apple not doing any of this? Are they really a tech giant with a morality?

  80. Pietro Aldegani says:

    And we were thinking that at least the big techs were allies…

  81. Rogue JediKnights says:

    Monopolies conquered the globe

  82. Jeremy Dirr says:

    How about machine learning to cut energy consumption among the general population (perhaps voluntary trials first) and machine learning on how to substitue renewables to meet our needs? And machine learning on how to convince people that the Earth is more important than profits?

  83. Jose Valerio says:

    Great piece

  84. Mark Villeda says:

    Seriously need to do something about this.

  85. Pala Va says:

    So this is the "right thing"

  86. GamersRiseUp Please says:

    Sooooo the muppets

  87. Mstr. Eee says:

    "You were suppose to defeat them, not join them… "

  88. epSos.de says:

    Electricity will win. Oil is much more complicated to handle than soar panels.

    Digging for oil is for the mad investor who is betting that the past will win over the future.
    Like as if we age in reverse.

  89. Meesh Gleeson says:

    perfect timing for the attempted shutdown (strait of Hormuz)and the subsequent oil prices to rise!!!!!

  90. Michael Leonard S says:

    Jeff bezos and Bill gates be like : Ah yes,money

  91. 31YearOldBreadSlice says:

    We should all switch to ecosia and make big daddy mad

  92. abby marie says:

    yalllll what if Google & amazon is trying to take over the world one industry at a time

  93. IvanTheProducer says:

    Google isn’t being evil. At least their investing in oil that’s not funded by war criminals and terrorists.

  94. arfi hoi says:

    How abou space mining in moon and transfer to earth

  95. sleepy says:

    stalin did nothing wrong

  96. little star says:

    glad vox made a video about this! i'd hoped for the public to know more about the issue when i first read merchant's article for gizmodo

  97. Jeff Greenwade says:

    This video was well made. I loved the ominous sound effects.

  98. sir georgio alastrata says:

    Google is evil

  99. lava lamp productions says:

    I’m not dying for google in Iran in WWIII

  100. ZGMF-X20A says:

    I'd imagine there will be more ocean oil drilling with the partnership of these big tech companies. I am not happy that tech have went into this direction. We should be spending effort in renewable energy not finding more oil to contribute to climate change. It's sad that I work for one of these companies. And the worst is they have majority of the world's best talents to destroy this world.

    I feel like as software engineers who work for these companies, we need to speak up about this. But there is always that fear of losing your job too. Tech have gotten way too much power. Even typing this comment gives me the chill of Google tracking me.

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