US Imports Of Oil From The Amazon Are Rising

Oil spill, Ecuador

Oil spills occur frequently in the Amazon, yet little is heard about them. RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images

Most people are unaware that the Amazon rainforest is actually being drained of oil. Spills and leaks in what is often considered one of the most pristine and biodiverse regions on the planet are an almost daily occurrence, and the way of life for many indigenous groups is being threatened. Despite the fact that crude oil imports into the US are declining, it turns out that US imports of oil from the Amazon have been rising.

A new report, compiled by the environmental group Amazon Watch, has highlighted the role that the US is playing in driving the destruction of some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, and the peoples who subsist on them in turn. Not only that, but the group has also revealed that despite the state's green reputation, California is processing 74 percent of the Amazon crude oil that enters the country.


“All commercial and public fleets in California – and many across the US – that buy bulk diesel are using fuel that is at least partially derived from Amazon crude,” explains Adam Zuckerman, Amazon Watch's End Amazon Crude campaign manager. “Therefore, virtually every company, city, and university in California and around the country contributes to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.”

Released on Wednesday, the From Well to Wheel: The Social, Environmental and Climate Costs of Amazon Crude report details how American refineries processed 230,293 barrels of Amazon crude oil per day, accounting for 60 percent of all that is exported from the region, and of this 170,978 barrels pass through California. The oil is mainly being drilled in three countries – Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru – and is doing untold damage to the largest rainforest on Earth.

Burning Amazon oil is thought to have a triple carbon impact. Firstly, there is obviously the copious amounts of CO2 produced by burning it in the first place. But then you have to add on the emission released from cutting down the forest in order to get to the fossil fuel underneath, and finally take into account the loss of trees leading to an increase in emissions due to the reduction in the world’s largest carbon sink's ability to take up any more.

Not only that, but the impact of heavy industry in the remote Amazon is hugely destructive. One hectare of forest contains more species of tree than in all of the US and Canada combined, and thousands of species of animals. In addition, oil drilling on the edge of Yasuni national park, Ecuador, threatens the future of two of the last tribes in the world living in voluntary isolation.


With all the reserves under the Amazon only thought to contain enough oil to generate 17 days of global supply, Amazon Watch is calling on the world to stop this needless destruction. 


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