The Curious Case of Amazon Rainforest Oil Discovered in L.A. Gasoline

A new report reveals some 70 million barrels were exported from the Amazon to the U.S. last year
256

Who knew that the truck delivering your Amazon package was fueled with oil from the Amazon rainforest? A new report by NBC News, in partnership with the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network, shows that massive amounts of oil extracted from a protected rainforest in Ecuador end up as gasoline in Los Angeles.

Fill-ups at Chevron and Shell stations, cheap gas at Costco and Wal Mart, and UPS, FedEx, and Amazon delivery trucks tooling around L.A. are the biggest users of petroleum sourced by Chinese oil companies operating inside Yasuni National Park in Ecuador. One in every seven tanks of gas pumped locally comes from the Amazon rainforest, and jets leaving L.A. consumed 123 million gallons of the same oil.

Some 70 million barrels from the Amazon were exported to the U.S. last year, with 56 million of them headed to Southland refineries. 93 percent of the oil is from Ecuador. “It’s probably just transportation cost,” said Ed Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston when asked why it’s heading to L.A. “It’s seven or eight days to California” from Ecuador “as opposed to weeks from the Middle East.”

The protected area, smaller than Los Angeles county, is designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The park is one of the most biologically diverse areas on Earth, and his home to thousands of species of reptiles, bats, and mammals. A single hectare (2.5 acres) of the park contains more varieties of trees than the U.S. and Canada combined. Dr. Jane Goodall has spoken out for the population of Marmosets, Capuchins, and Squirrel monkeys that live in the forest, whose protected habitat is being destroyed by not only oil drilling, but illegal logging and hunting inside the park.

Indigenous people in the area, which includes two uncontacted tribes, have been trying to stop the drilling for years, but Ecuador’s new President Guillermo Lasso has pledged to double oil production in the face of an $18 billion debt to China. Tribal leader Nemo Guiquita told NBC “The rainforest for us is home. It’s our life, our pharmacy, our everything.”

A plan under the nation’s previous regime called on the international community to help offset the losses incurred by not drilling in the rainforest. Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Gore, and Edward Norton all pledged to the cause, but the plan was abandoned after failing to reach the $3.5 billion goal.

“This is no longer one of those things where we’re supposed to have sympathy for a crisis that’s happening somewhere else,” said Angeline Robertson, a senior researcher at Stand.earth and the lead author of the report. “It’s occurring in California, and it’s linked to Amazon destruction.” The organization’s #EndAmazonCrude campaign is at: act.stand.earth.


Stay on top of the latest in L.A. news, food, and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.