Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

Study: California Has Some Of The World’s Dirtiest Oil

Offshore oil drilling platform

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Offshore oil drilling platform "Gail" operated by Venoco, Inc., is shown off the coast of Santa Barbara, May 1, 2009.

California is home to some of the world’s dirtiest oil, according to a study from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington, D.C., based think tank.

The report looked at the entire life cycle of oil, from production to end use, and found some oils emit as much or more greenhouse gases as Canada’s oil tar sands.

“And those are the same oil sands that California didn’t want to take, because they were so dirty. But California produces some of its own really dirty oils,” said Deborah Gordon, director of the energy and climate program with the Carnegie Endowment.

The study also found California has some of the cleanest oils. Gordon said that is because an oil’s chemical composition can vary.

“I was shocked right from the beginning at how wide-ranging these emissions were and how little we talk about oil (as) anything other than being an average standard barrel of oil,” Gordon said. “There are really big differences between oils, and that really conjures up the challenges involved in managing them well.”

The report said the state should track an oil’s chemical makeup to help better manage greenhouse gas emissions.

Click here for interactive map of greenhouse gas emissions from oil fields in California.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.