Europe Approves Tar Sands Oil Without Dirty Label

9 10 2014

Europe Abandons Battle Against Canadian Tar Sands Oil: Green Lobby Defeated Over Energy Security Concerns

  • Date: 07/10/14
  • Barbara Lewis, Reuters

A European Union plan to label tar sands oil as highly polluting in its fight against climate change has been abandoned after years of opposition led by major producer Canada.
A proposal published by the European Commission on Tuesday removes an obstacle to Canada exporting tar sands crude to Europe and comes at a time when tensions between the EU and top oil supplier Russia are running high.

EU sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the desire for a trade deal with Canada had been a factor given the situation with Moscow.

Confirming a draft seen by Reuters in June, the proposal requires refiners to report an average emissions value of the feedstock used in the products they produce, dropping a requirement to single out tar sands content.

Extracting oil from the clay-like tar sands requires digging in open-pit mines or blasting with steam and pumping it to the surface, meaning it uses more water and energy and emits more carbon dioxide than conventional crude production.

“It is no secret that our initial proposal could not go through due to resistance faced in some member states,” EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in a statement.

The revised plan still proposes a method to assess the pollution levels of various fuel types over their life cycles and the European Commission said it would propose action if these were incompatible with climate goals.

“The Commission is today giving this another push, to try and ensure that in the future, there will be a methodology and thus an incentive to choose less-polluting fuels over more polluting ones like, for example, oil sands,” Hedegaard said.

Environmental campaigners and Green politicians criticized what they saw as a step backwards. Greenpeace accused the European Commission under outgoing President Jose Manuel Barroso of putting trade ahead of the environment.

“The Barroso Commission has chosen to put trade deals like TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) before the environment,” said Greenpeace EU energy and transport policy director Franziska Achterberg.

“This should be a lesson to (Commission President-elect Jean-Claude) Juncker and his team. Public opposition will only intensify if he allows trade deals to be used to undermine the EU’s environmental legislation.”

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