In 2014, Amazon made a much-applauded announcement that it would power the entire company off of renewable energy. However, recent investigations by Greenpeace and Gizmodo have revealed that Amazon isn’t making good on its commitment. As The Guardian explained, “Amazon hasn’t announced any new deals to supply clean energy to its data centers since 2016, and it quietly abandoned plans for one of its last scheduled wind farms last year. Meanwhile, in 2017, according to internal company documents viewed by Gizmodo, Amazon undertook a concerted push to win over a new industry, perhaps best summed up by the name of a presentation at Amazon Web Services’ annual company Sales Kick-Off event that February: “Positioning for Success in Oil & Gas.” Amazon is aggressively building new data centers but isn’t creating or securing clean energy to power them and at the same time is helping oil companies optimize their operations.
- Over the last two years, as Amazon’s clean energy promises have stalled out, Earth’s most customer-centric company has aggressively courted the fossil fuels industry, landing deals and partnerships with companies like BP, Shell, and Halliburton, offering data-based services such as machine learning for enhanced exploration, internet of things-enabled oilfield automation, and remote site data transportation.
- Amazon’s actual renewable energy deployment has plateaued at the halfway mark—the last milestone the company lists on its Sustainability Timeline is “AWS achieved 50% renewable energy usage,” in January of 2018—and now even risks decreasing as a total share of the company’s energy supply.
- And an internal database from Amazon of “Oil and Gas Key Accounts” for 2018 viewed by Gizmodo contains dozens of current and targeted clients that include some of the largest private contributors to climate change, like ExxonMobil and Chevron, and entities like Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company.
- Amazon’s massive cloud operation appears to once again be getting dirtier, powered by a growing share of fossil fuels. AWS is then selling its fossil-fueled cloud to oil, gas, and coal companies, to help them better find and extract more fossil fuels.
Greenpeace USA Senior Corporate Campaigner Elizabeth Jardim said that “Despite Amazon’s public commitment to renewable energy, the world’s largest cloud computing company is hoping no one will notice that it’s still powering its corner of the internet with dirty energy.”
Why This Matters: Amazon is one of the world’s most profitable public companies and it has made those profits using resources provided to it by the public, like infrastructure and workers. Therefore if the company makes a commitment to reducing carbon emissions and acting on climate change it has a responsibility to uphold it for the sake of the American people. It’s not right for Amazon to receive praise for joining Apple and Google in signing ‘We’re Still In’ pledge to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement and not actually follow through. For comparison, not only is Apple creating renewable energy to power its own operations but it’s growing renewable capacity and selling it back to the grid.
Go Deeper: This isn’t just Amazon that’s helping fossil fuel companies optimize their operations and oil exploration efforts, several tech giants are also guilty of this including Google.