Microsoft’s Carbon Plan Is Hot Air

They still empower fossil fuels

Microsoft is going carbon negative by 2030, but they’re still using their technology to extract more carbon. This like a tobacco executive that quits smoking. Good for you, but your product is still killing people.

Yes, Microsoft’s tools are carbon-neutral, but if you use them to extract more carbon it doesn’t matter. The emissions are off Microsoft’s books, but they’re still in the air. Microsoft is continuing its business with fossil fuel companies which makes its carbon plan a non-starter. Until they divest, you can chalk this PR exercise up to what it is. More hot air.

Microsoft plans on removing 5M tons of carbon in 2030. Which is great. However, they also have a 7-year deal, billion-dollar deal with Chevron, which emitted 396M tons in 2018. They also work with Shell, Exxon, and Equinor. If Microsoft makes these companies 1% more efficient, they’ve offset their offset.

Microsoft also plans cleaning up its supply chain, which is commendable. However, in 2018 they hosted a conference called Empowering Oil & Gas with AI. What’s the point of reducing emissions in your supply chain if it just leads to massive emissions by your customers? It’s like saying I stabbed you, but my knife is made of recycled plastic.

In their press release, Microsoft is calling for “using our voice on carbon-related public policy issues.” This is welcome. At the same time, however, they have joined BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, Total and ConocoPhillips to kill off historic climate change lawsuits. There is no point in using your voice for one thing and your lawyers for another.

Press release on Microsoft’s collaboration with Chevron

The whole exercise by Microsoft is deeply disingenuous. Their PR department is trying to take leadership on climate change while the core business is literally hosting an Oil & Gas Leadership Summit in Houston. You can’t lead both the problem and the solution, especially when the problem is paying you.

Microsoft is talking about reducing emissions while partnering with Chevron to “generate new exploration opportunities and bring prospects to development more quickly”. What this means in plain English is using the highest technology to extract and burn more fossil fuels. Their website is full of case studies on increasing emissions but I can’t find any on eliminating them. That would mean eliminating profits for their customers, and them, and that’s a sacrifice Microsoft isn’t willing to make. This isn’t a serious carbon plan. This is a fig leaf on what remains naked greed.

The fact is that climate isn’t some CSR project. It’s something you do on the side. Fighting climate change requires a fundamental change in how companies do business. It requires actual sacrifice and short-term pain. Microsoft offers none of that. They’re just doing the bare minimum and talking about how technology will save us in the distant future. They’re getting plaudits for leadership but it’s cowardice. They’re not giving anything up.

A company that does not divest from fossil fuels is not an ally. They are part of the problem. It doesn’t matter how green their office is or how many bushes they take photographs in front of. They are making blood money, and trying to wash their hands in the press.

Fighting climate change requires boycotts, divestment, and prosecution of the fossil fuel companies that have created the problem and buried evidence of climate change. It also requires pressure and a dinging bell of shame on the likes of Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, who are trying to PR their way out of their acceleration of disaster.

Microsoft is literally taking the greatest threat to humanity and trying to empower it with AI. Why would you want to make oil fields smarter when we’re trying to shut them down? It’s like Skynet, except instead of controlling nukes the AI will control oil and gas fields, and instead of bombing us they can just buy off the 1% and slowly kill us all.

I digress, but the point is this. Don’t believe the hype about Microsoft going carbon negative. Their business is still very much carbon positive. None of these tech giants or the 100 companies causing climate change are going to voluntarily give up any money or any meaningful amount of carbon. It has to be taken from them, and they cannot be taken at their word.