May 19, 2020 - Technology

Google drops future AI oil extraction projects

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Google will no longer develop new artificial intelligence tools to help oil and gas companies extract crude, the company announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The tech giant is breaking away from Microsoft and Amazon, both of which have also developed AI in recent years to expedite oil production and make services more efficient for companies like Chevron and GE Oil & Gas. Google's 2018 contract with Total was in place as of February, a Total spokesperson confirmed to Axios at the time.

What they're saying: Google Cloud "will not, for instance, build custom AI/ML algorithms to facilitate upstream extraction in the oil and gas industry," a Google spokesperson told Axios on Tuesday. OneZero first reported the move.

  • Yes, but: The company will honor its current contracts. The spokesperson declined to say if Google's work with Total would continue, noting that customer contracts are confidential. Total did not respond to a request for comment.
  • Google's 2019 revenue from oil and gas came out to roughly $65 million, which accounted for less than 1% of the company's total revenue in that period, the spokesperson said.
  • On renewable energy, Google says it is applying algorithms from its own data centers to improve efficiency in buildings.

Of note: Google's announcement dropped alongside a Greenpeace report released Tuesday that detailed cloud computing and AI contracts between Google, Microsoft and Amazon and oil and gas companies.

Between the lines: Microsoft and Amazon have said that working with the oil industry isn’t at odds with their climate commitments. In some cases, they're working with Big Oil on clean energy plans — like BP giving AWS renewable power.

What we're watching via Axios' Amy Harder: It's too soon to tell whether Google proves to be an outlier or an early indicator of a trend, but one thing is clear now: Environmentalists will be ramping up the pressure on other tech giants and companies in other sectors to sever ties with oil and gas firms now that they've had success with one.

Go deeper: Climate activists target Big Tech over fossil fuel work

Go deeper

Updated 51 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Updates: George Floyd protests continue past curfews

Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators outside of the White House on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued Tuesday across the U.S. for the eighth consecutive day, prompting a federal response from the National Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

The latest: Even with early curfews in New York City and Washington, D.C., protesters are still out en masse. Some protesters in D.C. said they were galvanized by President Trump's photo op in front of St. John's Church on Monday and threat to deploy U.S. troops in the rest of country if violence isn't quelled, NBC News reports.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Trump backs off push to federalize forces against riots

Photo: Brendan Smialowski /AFP via Getty Images

A day after threatening to federalize forces to snuff out riots across the country, the president appears to be backing off the idea of invoking the Insurrection Act, sources familiar with his plans tell Axios.

What we're hearing: Aides say he hasn’t ruled out its use at some point, but that he's “pleased” with the way protests were handled last night (apart from in New York City, as he indicated on Twitter today) — and that for now he's satisfied with leaving the crackdown to states through local law enforcement and the National Guard.

What we expect from our bosses

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Workers — especially millennials and Gen Zers — are paying close attention to the words and actions of their employers during national crises, such as the protests following the killing of George Floyd in police custody.

Why it matters: American companies have an enormous amount of wealth and influence that they can put toward effecting change, and CEOs have the potential to fill the leadership vacuum left by government inaction. More and more rank-and-file employees expect their bosses to do something with that money and power.