Just two weeks after Amazon pledged to radically reduce its company-wide carbon emissions, the head of its oil and gas web services subsidiary traveled to Houston, Texas, to participate in the oil industry’s “Accelerate Production 4.0” event. The event was part of a conference put on by Weatherford, a major oilfield services provider, and was billed as “the U.S. oil and gas industry’s only Production 4.0 forum.” Per Weatherford, its aim was “to discuss the role of digitalization in the near and long-term future of oil and gas production.”
According to Offshore Engineer Magazine, Amazon Web Services has—along with Microsoft and IBM—partnered with Weatherford to help build its suite of Production 4.0 technologies. As the conference title indicates, these technologies are explicitly intended to accelerate and improve oil production. AWS was a Platinum sponsor of the event.
“Weatherford Production 4.0 products … activate field-wide intelligence to maximize production,” Manoj Nimbalkar, Weatherford Global Vice President, Production Automation and Software, said in a press release. “Weatherford delivers the future of production performance through next-generation automation, IoT infrastructure and advanced optimization software to boost production, uptime and efficiency.”
Boosting production will also boost the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere at a time that scientists say that most fossil fuels must be left in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. In no uncertain terms, accelerating oil production will accelerate the advance of the climate crisis.
Amazon won headlines around the globe when CEO Jeff Bezos announced the company’s ambitious-sounding ‘Climate Pledge.’ This, Bezos said, set the online retailer on a path to 100 percent clean energy and carbon neutral shipping. The pledge was largely seen as a response to Amazon employees’ continued agitation for their company to adopt a plan to address the climate crisis.
Yet the details and specifics of the roadmap to sustainability were scarce, and when a reporter asked Bezos if he would be canceling his company’s contracts with the oil and gas industry, his response was simple: “No.”
“We’re going to work hard for energy companies,” he continued. “And our view is we’re going to work very hard to make sure that as they transition they have the best tools possible.”
Bezos is certainly making good on his word.
Corporations typically host a presence at trade conferences like this to advertise their services and network with prospective clients in hopes of attracting new business. By sponsoring this event, and by sending David Milam, AWS’s Head of Oil & Gas Solutions, to give a keynote talk—mere weeks after Amazon made a highly publicized pledge to reduce carbon emissions and embrace clean energy, no less—the company is sending a clear signal that it will remain wide open to the business of advancing and technologically improving fossil fuel production.
It is quite literally underwriting “Accelerating Oil Production 4.0.”
Amazon may say it is dedicated to being a part of the solution to climate change—and it may yet make good on its commitments to power its own operations with clean energy and reduce its shipping emissions. But by simultaneously helping oil and gas companies develop new technologies to automate, streamline, and accelerate the extraction of fossil fuels, Amazon is undermining both its own claims to sincerity and any net carbon reductions it might make.
Worse, by helping to keep oil cheaper and more plentiful, Amazon and other tech companies assisting in oil extraction are delaying the transition they claim to want to help advance. If Amazon is serious about its climate pledge, it needs to be in the business of decelerating fossil fuel production, not the opposite.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment, and Weatherford declined to do so.