How Much Does Texaco Owe Us?

How Much Does Texaco Owe Us?

By Esperanza Martínez

You cannot put a price on life, it is immeasurable. You cannot put a price on a dead river, but you can calculate how much it would cost to replace the services it provided.

How Much Does Texaco Owe Us? A Case of Ecological Debt.

The Texaco company is probably the one that has accumulated the greatest ecological debt with Ecuador.

Their operations meant the destruction and contamination of large tracts of jungle in the Amazon region, the extermination of indigenous peoples and the impoverishment not only of the region, but also of the country.

You cannot put a price on life, it is immeasurable. You cannot put a price on a dead river, but you can calculate how much it would cost to replace the services it provided.

In Ecuador, indigenous people and peasants are prosecuting this company for the damages caused during its operation.

Some social organizations directly or indirectly affected by Texaco's activities have called for a boycott of this company, so that the Ecuadorian population does not buy any of its products.

In Ecuador we are all affected by Texaco, and therefore we must all support this cause and prevent Texaco from going unpunished for its crimes, abuses and destruction.

TEXACO owes Ecuador several times its external debt.

Texaco Profile

Ecological debtor: CHEVRON TEXACO

Creditor country: ECUADOR
Provinces of Orellana and Sucumbíos.

Creditor peoples: Cofán, Secoya, Siona, Quichua, Huaorani, Tetete, Sansahuari (extinct) and peasants displaced to the colonization zone.
Approximately 30,000 people are directly affected by its operations.

Ecosystem affected: Tropical Humid Forest.
Ecuadorian Amazon.
Amazonian, Andean and coastal ecosystems through which the SOTE crosses.

Intervention time: 28 years

Company history: Texaco is a North American company, created in Texas in 1926. When it opened its offices in Houston (Texas), it placed a pirate flag above its offices in the Petroleum Building. On the flag, as black as oil, a skull with a pirate patch over the hole of one eye and two crossbones waved. As if indicating what they were willing to do and ending what limited them to achieving their goals.

Ecological Extension of Damage

Texaco was the first company that in 1967 began oil activities in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Texaco extracted about 1.5 billion barrels of crude. It built 22 stations, drilled 339 wells in an area that currently reaches 442,965 hectares. It dumped tons of toxic material, maintenance waste and more than 19 billion gallons of production water (with a salinity 6 times higher than that of the sea and with traces of hydrocarbons and heavy metals) into the environment. Through its lighters, it burned 2 million cubic meters of gas daily.

There are still 235 wells in operation that are currently operated by Petroecuador and inherited dirty technology from Texaco. Every day they reportedly dump 5 million gallons of production water into the environment, as well as countless wastes from maintenance and other production activities. Petroleum wastes are applied to roads to control dust and "maintain them", this is a permanent source of contamination for the crops that are planted around the roads. Every day tens of millions of cubic feet of gas are burned as waste; thus devastating a natural resource and polluting the air.

Production water contains a large number of contaminants including hydrocarbons such as benzene and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that are directly related to cancer, have toxic effects on reproduction, and cause mutations and skin irritation. It also contains heavy metals and toxic salt levels.

Emissions into the atmosphere include greenhouse gases, acid rain precursors, and other pollutants that mostly contain dioxins (extremely toxic).

In addition to routine and deliberate releases and releases to the environment, accidental spills have been very frequent. During the time that Texaco operated the trans-Ecuadorian pipeline, the spills that occurred reached approximately 16.8 million gallons of crude.

Texaco is responsible for the impacts on rural communities, especially their health and the great economic losses due to the death of animals and the destruction of crops. He is held directly responsible for the cancer that affects people who live near oil installations.

Malnutrition, due to pollution and the destruction of resources in the area, is one of the highest in the country. Cancer cases are also among the highest and are growing, due to the chronic situation of contamination.

Cultural Extension of Damage

Texaco is responsible for the acceleration in the process of extinction of peoples such as the Tetetes and the Sansahuari that inhabited the area where Texaco installed the oil fields. It is responsible for the irreparable damage to the indigenous Siona, Secoya, Cofán, Quichua and Huaorani peoples who have been displaced from their ancestral territory, their way of life and their ancient culture have been affected and countless diseases have been caused. Among those that stand out: cancer, abortions, intestinal, respiratory and skin infections, nervous disorders such as memory loss, dizziness and permanent headaches.

The Tetete culture died out and other indigenous peoples in the area were reduced to ethnic minorities. Their cultural patterns of food and life were affected.

In addition to abruptly breaking the way of life of the peoples of the Amazon, Texaco generated poverty around them by destroying the natural resources they used for medicinal, nutritional, domestic and recreational uses. When Texaco began oil exploration, the area was a primitive tropical rain forest. Now, in the tributaries of the rivers of an ecosystem that is globally recognized for its biological richness and that contains 20 to 25% of the world's fresh water reserves, many families no longer have pure water or enough food.

The traditional health system, decision-making and organization were weakened.

Can Ecological Debt Be Accounted For?

You cannot put a price on life, it is immeasurable. You cannot put a price on a dead river, but you can calculate how much it would cost to replace the services it provided.
All the costs presented in this publication are referential that allow us to measure those expenses that are not seen and that we are used to not valuing.
Even though the calculations are incomplete, and in many cases inaccurate, they invite us to think about the true magnitude of the damage caused by Texaco.

Texaco's Debt with Ecuador

Debt for Oil Unpaid

Texaco extracted approximately 1.5 billion barrels of oil. He never paid for the oil resource. The payment he gave was only for extraction costs. Oil took millions of years to produce. In Brazil, a team of scientists calculated the value of the commodity called petroleum by applying the formula of labor time, labor force and raw materials. They concluded that the figure at which crude oil should be priced is one million dollars for each gallon (Dos Santos L. personal communication. 1999).

Using another reference, if we had sold Coca-Cola at the current price, for the same number of barrels the State would have obtained 107.100 million dollars (the price of a barrel of Coca-Cola today is 71.4 USD). No one could doubt that charging oil at the price of Coca Cola is ridiculous, given the cheapness of oil, and yet if we did, Texaco would still owe us $ 87.6 billion.

For the sale of the oil extracted, Ecuador received an average of 13 dollars per barrel, that is, 19,500 million dollars, during the 26 years of operation.
Coca Cola costs 6 times more than oil, despite the fact that oil took millions of years to form deep in the earth, which is a non-renewable resource and is the most valued source of energy.

Debt for Concept of Spills

During its 26 years of operation in the Ecuadorian Amazon, it is estimated that Texaco spilled 30 million gallons of crude. 16.8 million gallons were registered by the General Directorate of the Environment, due to the rupture of the main pipeline (SOTE) and the rest, conservatively, are estimated to be spills from secondary lines and poor well management.

To calculate the cost of cleaning up these spills, it is worth comparing them to other spills where remedial measures have been taken.

The largest oil spill in the history of the United States is the Prince William Sound, caused by the Exxon Valdez company in 1989. 10.8 million gallons were spilled there. Cleaning up the Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska cost more than $ 7 billion. Despite these investments, coastal fishermen and scientists said the work was incomplete.

A simple math calculation leads us to conclude that, to clean up the spills caused by Texaco in the Amazon, at least 19,444 million dollars would be needed, an amount higher than the current external debt of Ecuador. And it would surely cost much more, since cleaning the rainforest and fresh water, including swamps, is more difficult and expensive than doing cleaning activities at sea. (Kimerling J. com pers).

Swamp Pollution Debt

Behind each station there is at least one oil-covered swamp. These can be between 1 and 15 hectares, but the average is 10 hectares per season. These areas were previously tropical rainforest or tropical swamps.

Texaco affected a minimum of 220 hectares of wetlands, only taking into account the wetlands in which the large stations are located, since there are many small wetlands around the wells or in stations.

Recovering swamps is impossible. The different experiences show that the remedy can be worse than the disease and this is confirmed by Petroecuador workers. However, according to the Department of Biology of the Catholic University (Pallares pers. Comm.) The remediation of 1 cubic meter of swamp could mean no less than 600 dollars.

In 220 hectares of one meter deep swamps, for 600 dollars it would be equivalent to 1,320 million dollars that Texaco would have to pay solely for its remediation, which is different from restoration.

Debt for Gas Burning.

During its operations, Texaco burned the gas that is associated with crude oil. The burned gas contains SO2, SH2, NO2, NO, CO2, methane, ethane, propane, butane, pentane, heptane, CO. A secondary result of combustion is the generation of DIOXINS, which are highly toxic. Texaco burned a total of 248 billion cubic feet daily (Kimerling, 1993).

To understand the magnitude of the disaster, we can compare it to household gas. Each 15 kg cylinder has 1.03 cubic feet of gas. If the burned gas had the same characteristics as domestic gas and had been used, it would mean that Texaco burned 240,776 million cylinders
According to the different governments of the day, gas has been a subsidized product. Officially they have said that the real cost of each bottle would reach 20 dollars. In other words, Texaco burned 5 billion dollars at a real price.

Currently the subsidized price is $ 1.70 per cylinder, of the 240,776 million cylinders burned, it would be equivalent to $ 409,319 million, that is, 30 times the external debt.

Debt from Deforestation and Loss of Biodiversity

Texaco caused the deforestation of 1 million hectares between seismic lines, heliports, stations, access roads, camps and as an effect of colonization, induced by its operations.

To calculate the usufruct of one hectare, several studies have been carried out. According to Bennet (1991) from one hectare of standing forest you can get 6,520 dollars a year. This figure is achieved by calculating the value of using medicinal plants and non-timber forest products. According to the Yale University study in Jatun Sacha (Napo-Ecuador), the yield of three plots per year, using non-timber forest products were: first plot 3,107 dollars per year, in the second plot 2,497 and in the third 1,125.

This figure does not include the losses due to the profits that tropical forests could generate from discoveries of medicinal plants, active principles for the development of new medicines, cosmetics and other products, which could have been obtained. According to RAFI, 1995, the pharmaceutical industry obtains 47,000 million dollars a year for biodiversity from the South. According to the same study, if a family sold wood, it could obtain an average of 164 dollars / year. If he was dedicated to livestock 540 USD / year and in agriculture 339 USD / year. The usufruct of 1 million hectares could have meant 6,520 million per year, in 26 years it would be 169,520 million dollars.

Dead Fish Debt

During the exploration phase, the use of dynamite causes massive fish kills. Judy Kimerling (1993) estimates an average of 500 fish for each explosion. If only 60,000 seismic lines had been made, a figure recognized by the HBTAgra (1993) audit. In every km. there was at least one explosion in a river. This means at least 30 million dead fish. The prices of Amazonian fish, according to the Arca de Noe Aquarium, in Quito, range between 0.50 and 35 dollars. An average of all dead fish would be $ 532 million.

Debt for Water Used

Texaco used fresh water for its operations, in cooling systems and in its camps. They never paid for the use of this resource. An average of 200,000 liters of water were used daily in the camps. An oil worker uses an average of 100 liters of water per day for his activities. A liter of water costs 0.20 cents. therefore Texaco consumed $ 80,000 a day. In the 9,490 days it would be 759 million dollars.

Debt for Used Sand

Texaco used sand extracted from rivers in its infrastructure. There was movement of hundreds of thousands of dump trucks. In the 339 wells with an average surface area of ​​1 hectare, platforms of 0.50 depth were built, this means 5,000 cubic meters. An average of 5 cubic meters enters each dump truck, that is, 1000 dump trucks for each platform. Each dump truck at the current price is worth $ 20 for the Municipalities. For private purposes it costs $ 80. For each well $ 20,000 in unpaid sand was used, for 339 wells it gives us a total of $ 6,780,000

Sand was also used for the roads. According to data from mingas, a dump truck "drags 3 m." This covers half of the road, that is, 666 dumps are needed for 1 km. This for the 500 km of tracks gives us 333,333 dump trucks, at $ 20 per dump truck. This is equivalent to a debt of 6 million 660 thousand dollars.

Debt for Wood Used

Thousands of planks were used to palisade the road, most of them made of fine tropical woods. 8 boards per meter were used on the road, if we consider 2.50 by 0.25 boards as a reference. In the 500 km of road, 4 million planks were used. The current price of a plank ranges from $ 3 to $ 6, which is equivalent to $ 24 million.

On the platforms, the palisade involved the use of 16,000 planks per platform, which is equivalent to 5 million 424 thousand planks, which would currently cost more than 30 million dollars.

Debt for Wild Animals

Each worker ate an average of one (whole) wild animal per week. In 26 years of operations, with an average of 2,000 workers, taking into account that the work period was 22 days for 8 days off, the workers should have eaten 1 animal a week, than for 42 weeks of work a year and per 2,000 workers over 26 years, it gives a total of 2,184,000 wild animals.

A wild Amazonian animal in a zoo in the United States costs more than $ 1,000. To this must be added the dead animals, such as snakes, birds, monkeys and others. If we add these figures, it gives us an amount of 2,184 million dollars

Debt for Salinization of Rivers

According to Petroecuador reports, 19 billion gallons of production water were discharged into the environment during Texaco's operations. This disabled a large part of the Amazonian rivers. Salt in production waters contains heavy metals, making it toxic at trace concentrations.
Only the formation waters contain concentrations of sodium salts of between 150,000 to 180,000 ppm (parts per million), that is, these waters are up to 5 times more salty than sea water that has 35,000 ppm (Ecological Action, monitoring manual N 3). These brackish waters have been discharged into the rivers and estuaries of the Amazon, first at the drilling sites and later from the separation stations.

The current cost of seawater desalination is estimated at $ 0.38 per liter, according to Friends of the Earth Middle East. However, it is impossible to remove other salts highly toxic to human health, which are present in this water.

For human consumption, bathing, food, drink and others, of the approximately 150,000 inhabitants of cantons whose waters were affected by Texaco's operations, a minimum of 7,500,000 liters of water is required. To cover the 50 liters per person per day, the minimum of the dignity line. In today's market, 20 liters of water costs $ 2. This means that to meet water needs, it would take $ 750,000 a day. Calculating compensation for only 10 years would be $ 5.475 million.

Health Debt

The production water has high levels of sodium, chloride, sulfur, calcium, cyanide, magnesium and manganese salts. Depending on the geological structure, one or the other may predominate. These polluting waters affected the water for human consumption, rendering it useless. This has created an ideal environment for the proliferation of different diseases, which the locals cannot cope with. In addition, Texaco gave farmers chemical tanks to collect and store water.

In the area open and operated by Texaco, the highest rates of cancer and leukemia have been recorded in the country (31%). At the national level, the rate is 12.3%. The most common cancers are stomach, leukemia, liver, intestine, uterus, and bones.

In an investigation carried out in areas affected by oil extraction, 445 cases of cancer have been identified near oil installations (Maldonado, 2002). Further away from the oil wells and other infrastructures, other unreported cases could have occurred.

Cancer is an incurable disease if it is diagnosed late and even early treatment is not always successful. An average cancer treatment at Hospital Metropolitano costs $ 20,000. In the United States it is $ 47,000.

The treatment of the 445 patients would have required 20 million 915 thousand dollars.

We do not include in this section the compensation that would have to be paid for the deceased due to cancer or for other deaths due to pollution, drowning, intoxicated, asphyxiated ,? That could be calculated based on what insurance companies pay their relatives.

Debt for Badly Paid Work

Texaco paid workers in Ecuador much less for the same functions as in the United States. Working in the jungle were great luxuries for North American workers and very harsh conditions for Ecuadorians, who were initially busy opening the trail (Cabodevilla, 1997). Texaco did not want to have its own workers, it contracted auxiliary operations to other companies, thus avoiding all labor obligations.

The various auxiliary companies employed more than 4,000 workers, almost all of them working on jungle trails. (Cabodevilla, 1997). The trail workers were never able to make any type of claim, despite having reported accidents, very long hours of work, no social security, and in some cases slave labor (they only charged with food).

If a claim were made now, the value of the average working hour in both the United States and Ecuador could be used as a reference for oil work in the field. In the United States, you pay $ 15 an hour, in Ecuador the OCP currently pays 0.40 cents an hour. This means that working hours in the United States are 37 times greater than in Ecuador. Assuming that the 2,000 field workers would have received $ 70 per month, it gives us $ 21,842,000. If we consider that the company should maintain the same wages for the same work in both countries, Texaco would have a debt with these workers of 786 million 312 thousand dollars.

Debt for Genocide

Life is priceless, even more so the life of entire peoples. Genocide must be punished, as it is the greatest crime against humanity. The indigenous peoples were decimated. Their survival bases were destroyed, diseases were introduced that acted as biological weapons of extermination. Many indigenous people died of the flu, a disease for which they had no resistance. In the case of the Tetete and Sansahuari peoples, there were no survivors.

The Jewish People have achieved that the German state is sanctioned for the genocide committed against them in World War II and that compensation is recognized. They demanded the creation of a fund of 18 governments of 1.25 billion dollars, as compensation for the survivors. They claim $ 5.5 billion in payment for the unpaid work of the prisoners. They also claim 5,000 million dollars for unpaid or contracted insurance fees.

If we calculate only the 1,250 million for 7 extinct or threatened peoples in the area of ​​influence of Texaco (Tetetes, Sansahuari, Siona, Secoya, Confán, Huaorani, Quichuas), this company should pay 8,750 million dollars.

Debt to Benefit from the External Debt of Ecuador

Ecuador's external debt, according to Alberto Acosta, grew by almost 22 times: from 260.8 million dollars at the end of 1971 to 5,869.8 million at the end of 1981. These years are vital because during these years all of the infrastructure that would benefit Texaco. By 1991 the external debt amounted to 12,802 million.

This debt went from 16% of GDP in 1971 to 42% of GDP in 1981, by 91 it was 111% of GDP.

The external debt service also experienced a spectacular rise: in 1971 it committed 15 of every 100 dollars exported, while ten years later, 71 of every 100 dollars.

It is necessary (and possible) to investigate how much of those 5,200 million of foreign debt served for Texaco and its interests (construction of infrastructure and other related interests). To use a reference of the minimum that Texaco benefited from our indebtedness, we will take only the debt of the first year (1971-1972) that is to say 83 million dollars.

Debt for Carbon Produced

Texaco extracted 1.5 billion barrels. It is estimated that a barrel produces 0.112 tons of Carbon (Oilwatch 2000). This represents 168 million tons of CO2. According to Joan Martínez Alier (2,000) "a plausible price for cleaning bonds per ton of carbon is $ 20". This amount of 168 million tons implies that Texaco should invest 3. 360 million dollars.


For unpaid oil$ 87.6 billion
Due to oil spills19,444 million USD
By cleaning swamps$ 1,320 million
By burning gas409,319 million USD
Due to deforestation and loss of biodiversity169,520 million USD
By dead fish$ 532 million
For used water$ 759 million
By sand used in platforms6 million 780 thousand USD
By sand used on roads6 million 660 thousand USD
For wood used on roads$ 24 million
For wood used in platforms$ 30 million
By wild animals2,184 million USD
Due to the salinization of riversUSD 5,475 million
For sickness20 million 915 thousand USD
For poorly paid work786 million 312 thousand USD
For genocide$ 8.75 billion
Due to external indebtedness83 million USD
By carbon produced$ 3,360 million
TOTAL DEBT OF TEXACO709,220 million 667 thousand USD

The sum of all these items establishes that Texaco's debt with Ecuador amounts to 709,220 million 667 thousand dollars, 51 times the Ecuadorian foreign debt!

* Ecological Action - Quito-Ecuador
Green Alert - Ecological Action Bulletin

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