QUITO/SACRAMENTO (Reuters): California must eliminate or significantly reduce consumption of oil pumped from the Amazon rainforest to protect an ecosystem vital for curbing the effects of climate change, two advocacy groups said in a report on Thursday.
Import data from the United States Energy Information Administration and shipping manifests helped Stand.earth and Amazon Watch conclude that 50% of oil produced in the Amazon goes to California.
About one in every nine gallons of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel filling vehicles and planes in the Golden State is linked to the rainforest.
“California refineries, businesses, and consumers are playing an outsized role in consuming oil from one of the most biodiverse regions in the Amazon Basin,” the groups said in their joint report.
Scientists say protecting the Amazon is vital to curbing climate change because of the vast amount of greenhouse gas the forest absorbs.
In Ecuador – the source of 89% of the oil flowing out of the Amazon, according to the report – primary forest loss in 2020 roared up to 19,101 hectares, the highest level since at least 2002, according to Amazon Conservation’s MAAP program, based on data from the University of Maryland.
Ecuador’s Waorani indigenous community have fought for decades to fend off oil exploitation in their territory, which is one of the country’s richest and most diverse environmental areas but also boasts important oil reserves.
“Oil extraction in the jungle has left us with pollution, disease, death and extreme poverty in our communities,” Waorani community leader Nemo Andy Guiquita told Reuters, questioning why the government expanded protection around the Galapagos Islands but not in the rainforest.
The country’s President Guillermo Lasso has set his sights on doubling oil production to 1 million barrels per day by the end of his term.
Oil activity in the Andean country must adhere to environmental regulation and the government is working to cut emissions from oil and gas projects, Ecuador’s Energy Ministry told Reuters.
Everyone “has a legal obligation to respond for environmental damage or impacts they have caused,” it said in an email.
Though the most populous U.S. state boasts an aggressive plan to cut reliance on fossil fuels, Stand.earth and Amazon Watch say it must discourage the use of oil from ecologically sensitive areas.
“It has to be something the state and corporate leaders forge a path on,” Stand.earth senior researcher Angeline Robertson told Reuters, because consumers cannot tell where their gasoline comes from.
Stand.earth and Amazon Watch said they shared their demands and findings with the administration of California’s Democratic Governor, Gavin Newsom.
Newsom’s administration has set bold goals to reduce oil demand, the California Environmental Protection Agency told Reuters, citing $15 billion of investments in climate initiatives.
“We cannot sacrifice the habitability of our planet or the survival of vulnerable indigenous communities for a dying industry,” the agency said in an email.