Amazon Crude Used in U.S. Truck Fleets Is Destroying the Rainforest

New report reveals the social, environmental, and climate costs of Amazon crude oil

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Oakland, CA – A new report entitled From Well to Wheel: The Social, Environmental and Climate Costs of Amazon Crude released Wednesday by Amazon Watch reveals the extent to which U.S. imports of crude oil from the Amazon – most of which are refined in California – help drive the ongoing expansion of oil operations into some of the Amazon rainforest's most pristine regions, creating devastating impacts for the Amazon's biodiversity and indigenous peoples, refinery communities in the United States, and our global climate.

While overall US crude imports are in decline, US imports of oil from the Amazon have risen in recent years, and the US now imports more Amazon crude than any other country. California's refineries are the worst offenders, processing an average of 170,978 barrels (almost 7.2 million gallons) of Amazon crude every day, accounting for roughly fifty percent of total global exports of Amazon crude from Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia, and about three-quarters of all the Amazon crude exports that enter 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," explained 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."

Drilling for oil in the Amazon has a triple carbon impact: the burning of the oil, the emissions released when cutting down the rainforest, and the destruction of the world's largest carbon sink. The Amazon regulates global weather, contains one-fifth of the world's flowing fresh water, and produces one-fifth of our oxygen. Just one hectare of the Amazon contains more endemic tree species than all of the U.S. and Canada combined. Deforestation in the Amazon directly contributes to the current drought devastating California's agriculture and leading to massive wildfires.

"Scientific research continues to tell us that we must keep dirty fuels in the ground and continue the transition to 100% clean energy if we want to preserve our communities, protect the health of our families, and tackle the climate crisis. Putting an end to the destructive use of Amazon crude is a crucial first step in meeting that challenge," argued Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club.

Bill McKibben of agrees. "If you needed another reason why the time is now to stand up to the oil companies, this remarkable report provides it. Ripping apart the Amazon rainforest and indigenous lives rubs salt in the deep climate wound our fossil fuel habit has created."

In addition to the devastating repercussions for biodiversity and the climate, oil operations have extremely toxic impacts on the health of indigenous peoples. In a particularly egregious example, 98 percent of children in indigenous communities in one oil-producing region of the Peruvian Amazon have dangerously high levels of toxic metals in their blood. "For those children, their communities, and our planet, we must end Amazon crude," said Amazon Watch Executive Director Leila Salazar-López.

Environmental advocate Esperanza Martínez, President of the Ecuadorian NGO Acción Ecologica, lamented, "the crude oil that arrives in 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."

"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 Salazar-López. "Breaking free from oil dependence and keeping remaining fossil fuels in the ground is an urgent, collective endeavor, and the life-giving Amazon rainforest must be one of the first places we start."

With the release of the report, Amazon Watch launched a new campaign, "End Amazon Crude", calling on U.S.-based refineries to stop processing oil from the Amazon, and on the U.S.'s largest companies to stop creating demand for Amazon crude. As part of this campaign, Amazon Watch released an infographic and a short animation from Pulitzer Prize-winning animator Mark Fiore to accompany the report. Find them all here.

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