OCT 04, 2016 3:14 PM PDT

Amazon Crude Oil: what is your gas tank filled with?

A new report entitled  From Well to Wheel: The Social, Environmental, and Climate Costs of Amazon Crude, comes from Amazon Watch this week and highlights the impacts of oil operations on Amazonian biodiversity and indigenous peoples, as well as on refinery communities in the U.S. and the global climate. It notes that while U.S. crude imports are in overall decline, imports from the Amazon are on the rise - and the U.S. is now importing more crude oil from the Amazon than from any single foreign country.

Photo: amazonwatch.org

“Drilling in the Amazon rainforest poses a triple threat to the climate: greenhouse gas emissions from burning the oil and felling the rainforest, combined with the degradation of this key carbon sink, have major implications for global climate stability. Resulting alterations in rain patterns could create or worsen catastrophic droughts or floods across the Western Hemisphere, setting off a chain reaction that could lead to ecological collapse,” states the report from the Oakland, California-based non-profit.

The report elaborates, explaining how “Expanding the Amazon’s oil frontier would also threaten the lives, livelihoods, and cultures of hundreds of indigenous communities, including those living in voluntary isolation. Oil has already polluted many of their rivers and forests, led to cultural devastation and destroyed livelihoods.” In one oil producing region of the Peruvian Amazon, 98% of children in indigenous communities have high levels of toxic metals in their blood. Expanded oil operations would broaden and deepen such impacts.

Existing and proposed oil and gas blocks in the Amazon cover 283,172 square miles, an area larger than the state of Texas. Oil is presently being extracted from only 7% of these blocks, yet national governments aim to exploit an additional 40%, including those slated for pristine, mega-diverse forests such as Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Esperanza Martínez, president of the Ecuadorian NGO Acción Ecologica, said in a statement that the crude oil that is imported into the U.S. from Ecuador "now carries with it a wave of disasters even greater than previous oil drilling history in the country, since drilling has begun in the Yasuní National Park. Yasuní is home to indigenous communities in voluntary isolation and forests full of immense biodiversity."

California’s refineries are the worst offenders, processing an average of 170,978 barrels (7.2 million gallons) of Amazon crude every day. The state processes roughly 60% of all exports of Amazon crude from Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia, and 74% of those that come to the United States.

“All commercial and public fleets in California — and many across the U.S. — that buy bulk diesel are using fuel that is at least partially derived from Amazon crude,” Adam Zuckerman, Amazon Watch’s End Amazon Crude Campaign Manager, said in a statement. “Therefore, virtually every company, city, and university in California and around the country contributes to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.”

Leila Salazar-López, executive director of Amazon Watch, added to the same sentiment: “Our demand for Amazon crude is literally driving the expansion of the Amazon oil frontier and is putting millions of acres of indigenous territory and pristine rainforest on the chopping block, ” said

The study includes a list of recommendations for public and private fleets to encourage the transition to Amazon-free operations.

Sources: Amazon Watch, Mongabay News, The Guardian, Global Justice Ecology
About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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