EU decides not to issue fuel quality directive for oil sands
Canada’s European Union lobbying appears to have paid off. An EU Parliamentary committee has decided not to pass a fuel quality directive that would have labelled Alberta oil sands as more carbon-intensive than conventional crude.
Ottawa, and the Canadian oil and gas industry, was worried that a decision to pass the fuel quality directive might have served as an example to American environmental activists, who could press State governments for a similar ban.
But the Alberta oil sands aren’t out of trouble yet. While the committee may have blocked passage of the directive, Europe’s national environment ministers get to decide on the issue in June.
“Now that the tar sands issue is finally in the hands of publicly accountable ministers, we will see who’s pulling the strings in Europe. The evidence is clear: tar sands are the world’s dirtiest fuels. The decision is even clearer: ministers should stand up to the oil industry and ban them from Europe,” said Greenpeace EU transport policy adviser Franziska Achterberg.
The Alberta government has been following the issue closely and has sent ministers to Europe as part of the Canadian lobbying effort.
“Alberta has always advocated that the fuel quality directive should treat all crudes equally and be based on scientific, verifiable data. It is very encouraging to see today’s vote from EU technical experts. Our hope is that today’s decision from the technical experts is not circumvented for political reasons,” said Premier Alison Redford.
Redford warned that a “discriminatory” FQD could resurface. She said the Alberta government “remains committed to working with the EU on the FQD to ensure it is transparent, accountable and scientifically supported.”
“This government has worked diligently to ensure Europe has access to the most current and up-to-date information on Alberta’s responsible oil sands development. Albertans can feel confident that this government will continue to be a strong voice in support of this important industry,” she said.
Achterberg says Greenpeace and other environmental organizations have not given up. The oil sands produce 23 per cent more climate emissions than conventional fuels according to a Stanford University report for the European Commission, says Greenpeace. Canada adamantly disagrees with that analysis and suggests that when all factors are considered, oil sands green house gas emissions are on a par or only slightly higher than conventional crudes.
Britain, France and the Netherlands abstained from the vote. All three countries are home to multinational oil companies that have invested in heavily in the Alberta oil sands industry.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Markham began his journalism career writing columns in the mid-1980s for Western People Magazine, then reported for a small Saskatchewan daily. He has spent most of his career in media and communications, likes to dabble in politics, was actively involved in economic development for many years, thinks that what goes on in the community is just as important as what happens provincially and nationally, and has a soft spot for small business (big business, not so much). Markham is a bit of a contrarian and usually has a unique take on the events of the day.