Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces the co-founding of The Climate Pledge at the National Press Club on September 19, 2019, in Washington.
Paul Morigi | Getty Images | Amazon
As Google’s cloud unit steps back from the oil and gas industry, a sales rep at Amazon Web Services is courting customers by pointing out how many fossil fuel products the company uses today to power its business, while also underscoring Amazon’s commitment to moving to renewable energy.
Earlier this week, environmental group Greenpeace released a report about cloud providers’ work with oil companies. Google responded by telling news outlets, including CNBC, that it would not build custom artificial-intelligence algorithms for the oil and gas industry.
Brad Farmer, a Houston-based Amazon employee on AWS’ oil and gas team for the central U.S., saw an opportunity. He published a LinkedIn post (since removed) in which he pointed out that Amazon is a customer for oil companies’ products.
“If you’re an O&G company looking for a strategic digital transformation partner, we would recommend choosing a partner who actually uses your products and can help you transform for the future — instead of the non-existent Microsoft and Google planes/trucks/vans purchasing your products. $0 top-line value,” Farmer wrote.
“Amazon buys jet fuel for our Amazon Prime Air planes! Amazon Middle Mile buys diesel for our 18-wheeler trucks! Amazon Last Mile buys gasoline for our blue Mercedes sprinter vans which you see in your neighborhoods!” He contrasted that with Google, saying that it’s “embarrassed to be seen with O&G companies in public.”
Farmer also acknowledged Amazon’s goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2040: “We also have a STRONG commitment to renewable energy sources as Amazon moves to net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 so we’re actively engaged on renewable fuel supply discussions.”
Amazon did not immediately offer a comment on Farmer’s post.
Fossil fuels and their contribution to climate change is a thorny subject for the company.
A group of Amazon employees have called for Amazon to end cloud contracts with companies that extract oil and gas. But Amazon has refused to end those contracts, saying the work helps energy companies “reduce their demand for carbon fuel sources,” and its website shows oil and gas customers like BP and Hess.
If Amazon were to scale back on oil and gas, that would provide an opening for its main competitor in the space, Microsoft Azure. Google, meanwhile, has had little success in the oil and gas space — a spokesperson for the company told CNBC the sector makes up less than 1% of its cloud revenue in 2019, and that sales to the sector had declined from the previous year.
AWS controlled 47.8% of the cloud infrastructure market in 2018, while Microsoft had 15.5% and Google had 4%, according to Gartner.
An employee group called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice is widely credited for influencing Bezos’ decision to announce a sweeping climate change plan last September. As part of the plan, Amazon has pledged to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement by 2040, a decade ahead of the Paris accord’s goal. The company also expects 80% of Amazon’s energy use to come from renewable sources by 2024, up from a current rate of 40%, before transitioning to zero emissions by 2030.
Emily Cunningham, a former Amazon user experience designer and member of AECJ, characterized Amazon’s work with oil and gas companies as lacking upside. In April, Amazon fired Cunningham and Maren Costa, also a user experience designer, from the company for breaking company rules.
“Amazon can’t say it’s leading on climate in one breath, and then in another, partner with fossil fuel companies to accelerate and expand oil extraction,” Cunningham said. “The fossil fuel industry is a dying industry. Even oil and gas companies know this. Partnering with Big Oil is not just morally repugnant, it’s bad business.”