California’s Central Role in Driving Amazonian Oil Drilling
California’s Central Role in Driving Amazonian Oil Drilling
Friday April 08, 2022

The Linked Fates research report from and Amazon Watch and news stories from major national and international news organizations (NBC News and Reuters and others) have shined a spotlight on the U.S. and California's connection to oil extraction and expansion in the Western Amazon. This is one of the most bio-culturally diverse regions in the entire Amazon basin and home to half a million Indigenous peoples from more than 20 different nationalities.

According to citizen polling from Directions Research, two-thirds of U.S. citizens are concerned about Amazonian oil imports and would be more likely to vote for elected officials who take action.

California Connections to Amazon Oil Drilling

This two-year research project tracking Amazonian oil supply chains has been completed by Stand Research Group, with findings synthesized in this slide deck revealing that:

  • California accounts for approx. 50% of the global consumption of Amazon oil - with another 16% going to refineries in the Gulf states and even President Biden’s home state.
  • In 2020, 1 in every 9 tanks of gas, diesel, or jet fuel pumped in California came from the Amazon Rainforest and in Southern California, the figure is 1 in 7 gallons pumped.
  • In 2020, Ecuador was the largest source of foreign oil for California, surpassing Saudi Arabia.

Immediate Threat to the Amazon from Planned Oil Industry Expansion

As the largest Amazon oil export destination, California has been and currently is central to crude-oil drilling and expansion in the Western Amazon. Ecuador’s President Lasso plans to double oil production in order to pay off a debt to China and this is leading to road-building in intact forests and protected areas and buffer zones of Indigenous peoples (Tagaeri and Taromenane) living in voluntary isolation.

Oil blocks covering approximately 7.5 million acres (3 million hectares) of intact forests are slated to be auctioned off by Q3 2022. Aging infrastructure has contributed to oil spills like the recent January pipeline rupture and two that occurred in 2020 and impacted hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples in Ecuador and will likely also be an ongoing issue. The human rights violations of oil and extractive industries operating in the region are affecting millions of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon basin whose cultural survival depends on intact forests and rivers.