Investors Get Strong Warning at Energy Conference: "Oil and Gas Projects in the Amazon Carry Major Risks" Clean Energy Investments Urged


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Coconut Grove, FL - The international environmental organizations Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network (RAN) held a "Project Risk Briefing" on controversial new oil and gas projects showcased at this week's Andean Energy '98 conference. Media, investors, government and industry heavy hitters received Investor Alerts detailing the financial, legal, social and environmental risks that investments in key projects may bring. Representatives from the two groups, which monitor the impacts of oil and gas exploration on fragile frontier forests in the Amazon Basin, provided the media with an opportunity to hear first hand field reports.

During the Project Risk Briefing, the environmental representatives alerted investors about the downside risks of controversial oil and gas investment opportunities, including the contentious Camisea Project in Peru. Earlier this year Shell pulled out of the project, in part due to vehement opposition from the international environmental and human rights community. Central to the debate at this conference is the topic of downside risks, and "reputational capital" – an important asset in today's consumer-driven market.

An investor alert for ARCO's Blocks 24 and 25 in the Ecuadorian Amazon was also highlighted at the briefing. In violation of international and Ecuadorian law, ARCO plans to move forward without consulting the local Achuar people who are adamantly opposed to the project. In addition, the ARCO oil project brings added risk exposure for investors as it is situated in a primary rainforest.

Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch unveiled a full-color map of the Amazon basin that superimposes petroleum basins, new production and exploration fields, frontier forests, and indigenous lands. The map exposes the extent of high-risk projects featured at the Andean Energy Conference—including Camisea and Ecuador's Blocks 24 & 25 – that fall within forest and indigenous areas. This information is provided to assist current and potential investor in assessing the financial, environmental and social risks of investing in these projects.

Several of the last remaining uncontacted indigenous communities in the world also inhabit areas of the Amazon slated for oil and gas projects. Amazon Watch and RAN urged leaders in industry, government and financial institutions to redirect investments into renewable energy solutions for the growing energy needs of Andean nations. Energy companies are advised to work with Andean governments to "leapfrog" their nations into clean energy technologies over continued investments in new fossil fuel projects.

"Given the growing concern about climate change and the dwindling public support for subsidies of fossil fuels, energy investors must move out of dinosaur oil project proposed for fragile rainforest areas and support nations in renewable energy solutions," explained Celia Alario of Rainforest Action Network.

Currently the petroleum industry spends more than $150 billion a year searching for and developing new oil and gas supplies. Joining the call of more than 200 leading organizations around the globe, RAN and Amazon Watch are calling for a moratorium on new oil and gas exploration in pristine and frontier ecosystem—such as the Amazon rainforests—and a full investment in renewable energy in developing countries.

"In a time when our global climate is so unstable, fragile Amazon rainforests should be the last place on earth new oil and gas investments are made," said Atossa Soltani, of Amazon Watch. "We have the opportunity to avoid full-scale climate chaos by recognizing the economic value these areas provide when left intact."

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