Over 430 elected officials demand action to address the root cause fueling the climate crisis and Amazon crude plays a big part By Ramona du Houx December, 2021 On December 2, a Stand.earth and Amazon Watch investigative report, that reveals the extent of how much California imports and refines oil from the Amazon, was published and made public. While Governor […]
Over 430 elected officials demand action to address the root cause fueling the climate crisis and Amazon crude plays a big part
By Ramona du Houx
On December 2, a Stand.earth and Amazon Watch investigative report, that reveals the extent of how much California imports and refines oil from the Amazon, was published and made public. While Governor Gavin Newsom promotes the Golden State as progressive, inclusive and leading the climate crisis fight, there is no other region in the world that consumes more oil from the Amazon than California.
According to the report, 50 percent of all the oil drilled and exported from the Amazon is refined in California; with half of this amount processed in Marathon, Chevron, and Valero refineries in the Greater Los Angeles area.
The news broke weeks after California joined the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, an international group of countries and subnational governments committed to phasing out oil and gas production. California announced it joined as an associate member of the multinational Alliance at the UN COP26 climate negotiations in Glasgow last month.
Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) California urges Governor Newsom to commit California to become a full member of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance by swiftly phasing out oil and gas extraction and production, and to immediately stop refining Amazon rainforest oil in California.
“In Glasgow, California declared on the world stage it is committed to moving beyond oil. Yet, California refines half of all Amazon oil that is destroying the rainforest lungs of our planet and Indigenous communities who are fighting to protect it. This is a major, unthinkable oil stain on California’s global climate leadership,” said Dominic Frongillo, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Elected Officials to Protect America. “Pollution from refining Amazon oil is killing Californians, harming communities of color and low income communities the worst. Governor Newsom has an opportunity to show true climate leadership by protecting our people and planet. That’s why more than 430 elected officials representing more than half of Californians have signed a letter urging Governor Newsom to phase out oil and gas production. Governor Newsom must take action to stop the importation of Amazon oil.”
In the letter, signed by elected officials representing 49 counties across California, EOPA California urges Governor Newsom to stop new fossil fuel permits, phase out fossil fuels immediately while transitioning to 100 percent clean energy, institute 2,500-foot buffers between drill operations and community sites, and ensure a just and realistic transition for workers in the oil industry.
The rainforest plays a crucial role in stabilizing the world’s rainfall patterns, influencing atmospheric and water cycles. It circulates more than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen. Additionally, vegetation in the region takes in massive amounts of carbon dioxide, helping to mitigate climate change. Currently, the Amazon’s forests hold 100 billion tons of carbon in the lignin of its trees. As the Amazon is logged, burned, drilled and converted to other land uses, the tropical forest is disappearing and turning into grassland.
The report found that 1 in 9 gallons of fuel pumped in 2020 in California came from the Amazon, and in Southern California, the average was 1 in 7 gallons.
“While the City of Los Angeles has been working hard on climate change to transform our energy sector and phase out neighborhood oil drilling, we have been simultaneously and unconsciously enabling the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest simply by driving our cars,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, EOPA California Leadership Council member. “If California takes every positive climate step and yet still aids in the destruction of the heart and lungs of our planet, we will all be lost. The state must halt the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles much more quickly than 2035.”
It’s clear that California doesn’t need to import Amazon crude.
The Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) report, Decommissioning California Refineries, led many to conclude that at the current rates of refining and production, ramping down refinery throughputs at the recommended 4.4 to 8.6 percent per year would mean that after two to three years, California could reduce refining volumes by more than current volumes of Amazon crude imports and crude produced in California within a 2,500′ buffer of homes, schools, and other sensitive receptors.
Amazon crude imports are currently 11 percent of crude refined in California. Crude produced within 2,500′ buffers is around 3 to 4 percent of the crude refined. Of the Amazon crude that goes to the U.S., 27 percent goes to Marathon, 22 percent goes to Valero, and 17 percent goes to Chevron.
EOPA California says that In order to meet California’s clean energy goals to move away from fossil fuels and toward a clean energy future the refinery problem has to be addressed directly by the Newsom administration.
Every day, people living in communities next to refineries and wells suffer from dirty air pollution while living under the threat of a probable spill. These refineries are primarily located in communities of color amplifying systemic racism and environmental justice issues.
Importantly, a study from Harvard University, in collaboration with three English universities, found that one in five premature deaths can be attributed to fossil fuel air pollution. Refineries produce an airborne toxic soup of carcinogens, neurotoxins, and hazardous metals, including benzene, hydrogen cyanide, particulate matter, and lead among others. These toxins can cause cancer, birth defects, neurological damage, chronic bronchitis, and trouble breathing.
Spills and fires have cost frontline communities millions of dollars in healthcare, remediation, and lost revenue.
Strikingly, crude imports roughly match refinery exports, polluting low-income communities for the sake of corporate profits and foreign interest. The hypocrisy of Gov. Newsom is evident to EOPA California and they vow to continue to fight for underserved communities who are forced to breath in this toxic pollution, and in the process air quality will improve for everyone.