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  • On Earth Day 2019, Google posted this video about the "urgency of radically addressing

  • sustainability officer. Now she works to make Google a global leader in "reducing or even

  • by 2017, they got that up to 100 percent. They've also managed to lower their total

  • energy use with some help from a branch of artificial intelligence called machine learning.

  • A computer program takes in lots of data and trains itself to operate the centers as efficiently

  • as possible. Here's energy use under human supervision, and when the AI is in charge.

  • The more data the AI trains on, the better it gets at reducing energy use. But here's

  • the thing: This same technology can be used to automate lots of other tasks, like fossil

  • fuel discovery and extraction. And while Google is using AI to increase the efficiency of

  • its operation, it's also using it to try and get as much oil and gas out of the ground

  • as possible. In 2018, Google hired Darryl Willis, a veteran of British Petroleum, to

  • lead its new oil, gas, and energy division. Willis explained "our plan is to be the partner

  • of choice for the energy industry." They've already signed a deal with Total, one of the

  • world's biggest oil companies, to develop AI that will streamline oil and gas exploration

  • and production. And Google's not alone. Microsoft and Amazon are also teaming up with the fossil

  • fuel industry. Big Tech has entered the oil business.

  • On June 15, 1957, the citizens of Tulsa, Oklahoma

  • buried a rather odd time capsule, a brand new Plymouth Belvedere. Sealed inside

  • among commemorative plates, ash trays, t-shirts, and books that captured the spirit of the

  • times, was a 16mm film reel. It showed a martian visiting the United States and learning that

  • oil and competition made the nation prosper. Also included in the capsule were gasoline

  • and motor oil. In 1957, it seemed like a very real possibility that these products wouldn't

  • be around in 50 years when the Belvedere was scheduled to be disinterred. Newspapers around

  • the country were reporting that America's oil production would soon fall off. And as

  • that cartoon martian learned, discoveries of new reserves were rare. "Only one well

  • in nine finds any oil at all. And only one in almost a thousand makes a major discovery."

  • Oil has always been really hard to find. America's first oil well was drilled in 1859 near a

  • particularly greasy creek in Pennsylvania. It was obvious there was oil seeping up from

  • the ground here, but it took Edwin Drake over a year and all his money to find a measly

  • little pocket of black gold. Still, his discovery triggered an oil boom and a Pennsylvania paper

  • was soon explaining that the substance could "illuminate, lubricate, make candles, and cure

  • most diseases from which humanity suffers." Not all of that proved true, but 100 years

  • later, petroleum had given the world "fabrics, toothbrushes, tires, insecticide, cosmetics,

  • weed killers, a whole galaxy of things to make a better life on Earth." And of course,

  • fuel. The energy needs of the world have risen a lot since 1859. And from very early on there

  • were fears that fossil fuels couldn't meet this demand. In 1909, some thought oil and

  • gas would run out around 1937. In 1937, US oil supplies were supposed to disappear by

  • 1952. And so on, and so on, as fossil fuels became more and more essential in every day

  • life, predictions of a crash kept coming. But somehow, the oil kept flowing. "I couldn't

  • imagine how this ever-increasing supply of oil was achieved. Until I found out that there's

  • not just one but thousands of oil companies all competing with each other to discover

  • and develop new sources of oil." From the earliest days, competing companies invested

  • in better technology to extract fossil fuels, better drills, better pumps, and they developed

  • better techniques for finding new oil reserves, creating seismic vibrations to see underneath

  • the ground, using satellite LIDAR to reveal hidden structures, detecting subtle changes

  • in the Earth's gravity and magnetism. Thanks in part to these advances, by 2007, when a

  • very rusty Belvedere was exhumed, global oil production was still on the rise. In the US,

  • it did look like oil was finally petering out, until investment in new technology, fracking

  • and horizontal wells in vast shale formations, brought it roaring back. Today, once again,

  • if we just rely on current reserves and current tech, oil production will start to falter,

  • but if new technology lets us squeeze more out of the reserves we already have and find

  • new sources of oil, we'll be able to meet the growing demand. It's just a matter of

  • finding the next technological leap. Of course, there's a problem with using fossil fuels

  • to meet the world's energy needs. Climate change. Oil, gas and coal are a time capsule

  • of a different sort, sealing ancient carbon deep below the Earth. When humans open that

  • time capsule and burn those fossil fuels, carbon reenters the atmosphere as the greenhouse

  • gas CO2. Since 1859, CO2 levels have shot up and so has the planet's temperature. If

  • we keep going like this, if we burn all the fossil fuels we currently have access to,

  • models suggest that the Earth could warm somewhere between 6.4 and 9.5 degrees. And so climate

  • activists say there's only one thing to do. "Keep it in the ground. Keep it in the ground.

  • Keep it in the ground. Keep it in the ground." That's easier chanted than done. Currently,

  • the world relies on fossil fuels for 85 percent of its energy needs. Keeping it in the ground

  • will require a huge shift to renewables and lower energy use in general. And big tech

  • companies have publicly rushed to be part of this effort. "Sustainability has been a

  • core value since our founding." "There had been pockets of sustainability living within

  • Amazon's business since the very beginning." "One of the problems we can help solve is

  • energy consumption." "We can invent our way out of this problem." "Innovation is the key

  • to solving this problem." "We can put artificial intelligence and digital technology to use

  • to help our customers in every part of the economy become more sustainable themselves."

  • It turns out that same artificial intelligence technology is just what oil companies need

  • to stay profitable. See the fossil fuel industry has amassed lots and lots of valuable data

  • as they've mapped Earth's crust in search of reserves. Take this patch of ocean floor

  • in the North Sea. In 1989, Dutch geologists painstakingly mapped the different rock layers

  • using seismic scans. Researchers at IBM recently fed all that seismic data into a machine learning

  • algorithm and after about 10 minutes of training, the AI was able to label the rock layers nearly

  • as accurately as human experts. Another group at Georgia Tech used machine learning to quickly

  • identify structures important to oil discovery. You could imagine how an AI could train itself

  • with all kinds of data to pinpoint the best places to drill. And once drilling begins,

  • AI can streamline extraction to make it cheaper. That kind of efficiency can help the oil and

  • gas industry compete with renewables and so it's no surprise that they spent an estimated

  • 1.75 billion dollars on AI in 2018. Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are competing for a

  • piece of that pie. Google has signed agreements with several fossil fuel companies. Microsoft

  • has teamed up with Exxon and Chevron, and just hired Daryl Willis away from Google.

  • And Amazon, who already provides cloud services to BP and Shell is marketing its ability to

  • accelerate and optimize exploration, drilling, and production of oil and gas. While they

  • talk up their commitment to sustainability, big tech is making sure the world can keep

  • burning plenty of fossil fuel. "And if you have both of these things, any goal is possible.

  • It's destination unlimited."

On Earth Day 2019, Google posted this video about the "urgency of radically addressing

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B1 Vox oil fossil ai gas energy

Google and Amazon are now in the oil business

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/08/07
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