Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Microsoft is almost doubling its internal carbon tax that helps fund the company's sustainability work and is joining a Big Oil-backed group pushing for a federal emissions fee.

The big picture: For a sense of scale, Microsoft said that last year it collected $20 million from the tax to pay for internal carbon neutrality work and fund grantees of its AI for Earth program.

Driving the news: Those are 2 of several announcements Tuesday that arrive amid scrutiny of Big Tech's carbon footprint and work with oil companies.

What's next: Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a blog post that the company will...

  • Expand offerings that help customers use AI to boost environmental performance.
  • Host gigantic environmental datasets on its cloud platform Azure to aid researchers.
  • Aim to have data centers run on more than 70% renewables by 2023. (Microsoft said it will reach 60% this year.)
  • Raise its internal carbon fee, launched in 2012, from $8 to $15 per metric ton.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is one of the first Big Tech companies to join the Climate Leadership Council. It includes ExxonMobil BP, Shell and Total, plus other corporate giants outside the oil sector.

  • It's pushing a plan crafted by GOP elders including Hank Paulson and James Baker that sets an escalating tax beginning at $40-per-ton.
  • The proposal, going nowhere in Congress right now, would return revenues to the public, cut climate regulations, and shield companies from some lawsuits.

What they're saying: Lucas Joppa, Microsoft's chief environmental officer, said there's huge potential in using AI and other advanced tech to help industries cut emissions.

  • “There has been this disturbing trend that technological revolutions have essentially paid for the present by borrowing from the future,” he said, noting the rise of the fossil fuel economy.
  • “There needs to be a recognition that this industrial revolution, this kind of AI-enabled revolution, has got to be the first one that breaks that cycle,” he told Axios.

By the numbers: The company released new Pricewaterhouse Coopers UK research it commissioned on AI applications in energy, water, farming and transportation.

  • It finds that AI could add up to $5.2 trillion to the global economy in 2030 and cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 4% by then.

But, but, but: Tech giants are under scrutiny for their huge energy use and business projects with fossil fuel clients.

  • That includes Microsoft, which is working with Exxon on cloud technology and data aimed at helping boost Permian Basin production.
  • “The low carbon future that we need to see the world transition to is going to be a transition. There will be a place for fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. We would like to see that need reduced,” Joppa said.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 32,471,119 — Total deaths: 987,593 — Total recoveries: 22,374,557Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 7,032,524 — Total deaths: 203,657 — Total recoveries: 2,727,335 — Total tests: 99,483,712Map.
  3. States: "We’re not closing anything going forward": Florida fully lifts COVID restaurant restrictions — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tests positive for coronavirus.
  4. Health: Young people accounted for 20% of cases this summer.
  5. Business: Coronavirus has made airports happier places The expiration of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance looms.
  6. Education: Where bringing students back to school is most risky.
Mike Allen, author of AM
8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden pushes unity message in new TV wave

A fresh Joe Biden ad, "New Start," signals an effort by his campaign to make unity a central theme, underscoring a new passage in his stump speech that says he won't be a president just for Democrats but for all Americans.

What he's saying: The ad — which began Friday night, and is a follow-up to "Fresh Start" — draws from a Biden speech earlier in the week in Manitowoc, Wisconsin:

Trump prepares to announce Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme Court replacement

Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Photo: Matt Cashore/Notre Dame University via Reuters

President Trump is preparing to nominate federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana, a favorite of both the social conservative base and Republican elected officials, to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republican sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Barrett would push the already conservative court further and harder to the right, for decades to come, on the most important issues in American politics — from abortion to the limits of presidential power. If confirmed, she would give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the high court.