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Taxpayers Unknowingly Support Big Oil in the Americas

Sustainable Energy and Economy Network (SEEN)
September 4th, 2002

For Immediate Release
Interviews Available
Contact: Nadia Martinez 202-234-9382, ext. 209
Jim Vallette 646-522-1605

WASHINGTON (August 30, 2002) -- As citizens and governments descend on Johannesburg, South Africa, for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the oil industry is gathering in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the World Petroleum Congress. Ten years ago, Rio was host to the first Earth Summit, at which nations of the world promised to combat global warming and enhance global conservation efforts. But a new study released today by the Institute for Policy Studies shows that in the last ten years, over $22 billion in corporate handouts were given to the oil, gas and coal industry operating in Latin America.

The study, called "Destabilizing Investment in the Americas: Public Funding for Fossil Fuels After Rio," found that, despite lofty rhetoric about the need for urgent action on climate change and biodiversity in Rio in 1992, U.S. taxpayer-supported financial institutions have supported 158 projects to extract, transport and burn fossil fuels in the Americas over the past decade. Many of these projects are going forward in regions that are considered critical to maintain biodiversity. The combined approved financing of $22.3 billion for these projects will result in an estimated 11 billion tons of carbon dioxide being released from these projects over their lifetimes. This is equivalent to eight times the carbon dioxide that was produced by the consumption and flaring of fossil fuels in all of Mexico, Central America, and South America in the year 2000.

These institutions', including the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank, U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, U.S. Export-Import Bank, have provided a paltry amount of support for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects during the same time period: $352 million in approved financing for 18 projects; thus, fossil fuel financing in the Americas outpaces clean energy by a ratio of 63 to 1. Most of this investment in fossil fuels has come from US taxpayers, who are unwitting underwriters of loans, guarantees and subsidies to Big Oil. Although the Americas have obtained over $22 billion in public support for fossil fuels since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, most of this oil and gas has been exported to the U.S.

"This study shows that public institutions have failed miserably in their Rio mandate to provide funding for a clean energy transition in the Americas," said Nadia Martinez, co-author of the study and a research associate at IPS. "Instead of providing energy for the poor, they are opening up some of the last protected areas for indigenous peoples, destroying their environment and giving them nothing in return. Their push for neoliberal policies that benefit large private corporations at the expense of local people only perpetuates the condition of economic imperialism that has dominated North/South relations for decades. The final legacy is not just local political and economic destabilization but ultimately climate destabilization that will affect us all."

In addition to summarizing SEEN's database information about these projects, this new study profiles two new major fossil fuel projects under consideration by the IDB: the Camisea gas development project that threatens the indigenous peoples and wild biodiversity of the southwestern Amazon rainforest, and an expansion of the Transredes gas pipeline in Bolivia, in which notorious energy trader Enron holds a major stake. This study and further information can be found on SEEN's website: http://www.seen.org

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