California guzzles Amazon oil

New investigation reveals California is fuelling Amazon oil drilling

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

Home » California guzzles Amazon oil

Published: 4 December 2021

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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A new report reveals, for the first time, that California refineries, businesses and consumers play an outsized role in using oil from one of the most biodiverse regions in the Amazon Basin.

Linked Fates: How California’s oil imports affect the future of the Amazon rainforest, released by Stand.earth and Amazon Watch, is a groundbreaking investigative report that tracks crude oil from the Western Amazon to the United States.

It shows in detail how California converts 50% of the Amazon oil exported globally into fuel for airports such as LAX, distributors such as Amazon.com, trucking fleets such as PepsiCo. and retail gas giants such as COSTCO.

The refined fuel comes from controversial oil extracted in the Amazon, where new oil drilling is linked to the violation of Indigenous rights, deforestation, biodiversity loss, pollution and increased fires in the Amazon from road building – as well as contributing to climate change.

‘Oil extraction in our Ecuadorian Amazon has brought pollution, diseases, deforestation, destruction of our cultures, and the colonisation of our territories. It is an existential threat to us, and it violates our fundamental rights as Indigenous peoples. We call for an end to all new extractions in our territories and, as our ancestors and now science claim, we must keep fossil fuels in the ground, in accordance with the commitments of the Paris Agreement and COP26 in Glasgow.’

NEMO ANDY GUIQUITA
Waorani Indigenous leader of Women and Health of CONFENIAE

California top consumer of Amazon oil

This research reveals that 89% of the crude oil exported from the Amazon comes from Ecuador, and 66% of that goes to the US.

Despite its progressive image and leaders, this research shows California consumes more oil from the Amazon than any other region in the world.

In fact, one in nine gallons pumped on average in California come from the Amazon; in Southern California, the average is one in seven gallons.

This research comes at a crucial time for Amazon. Ecuador’s President, Guillermo Lasso, recently announced plans to double the country’s oil production and to auction in 2022 nearly 7 million acres (~3 million hectares) of mostly intact rainforest for new oil exploration.

Linked Fates shows how the majority of this oil from ecologically fragile and culturally sensitive areas would go to California.

‘The Amazonian territories and ecosystems that we have lived in harmony with for centuries are under dire threat. We are at a tipping point. It’s now or never. We need to ensure protection of 80% of the Amazon rainforest before 2025 or we risk planetary peril. No one knows how to better protect these forests than we do, and the world should support and follow our lead.’

GREGORIO MIRABAL
Executive coordinator of the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA)

No room for new oil

This research follows three reports released earlier this year – from the International Energy Agency, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Production Gap report – that all show there is no room for expansion of oil and gas under net zero Paris-aligned pathways.

California and 10 other countries and subnationals joined the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance at COP26, announcing their commitment to end the expansion of oil and gas production and to wind down both production and emissions by 2050.

‘Our basic right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) continues to be violated by oil drilling projects, as is our right to a healthy environment, Indigenous autonomy, and the rights of nature, all of which are guaranteed by our constitution. There is no current drilling that complies with UN standards on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are adamantly opposed to new oil extraction. And when we raise our voices and exert our rights, we are criminalised, persecuted, and are threatened.’

MARLON VARGAS
President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE)

Top refiners of Amazon oil

Marathon, Chevron and Valero – all in California – are the top three refiners of oil from the Amazon.

Of the Amazon crude that goes to the US, 27% goes to Marathon, 22% goes to Valero and 17% goes to Chevron.

Chevron’s role is particularly notable since the company is connected to some of the oil industry’s worst impacts in the Amazon, as well as in California.

Chevron has spent nearly $2 billion fighting its court-ordered mandate to pay $9.5 billion in clean-up and community reparations costs in Ecuador for which it is responsible.

‘California’s continued consumption of Amazon crude is a commitment to climate chaos. Drilling for more fossil fuels underneath standing tropical forests is a recipe for disaster for the planet and Amazonian Indigenous peoples. From the frontlines of extraction in the Amazon to the fenceline refinery communities in California, Amazon crude is a toxic commodity. The golden state, and global companies, should abide by the golden rule, and end imports of Amazon crude.’

KEVIN KOENIG
Climate and Energy director, Amazon Watch

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