It’s all coming to a head, this tar sands thing. Europe is on the cusp of amending its EU Fuel Quality Directive and wants to label the Canadian product as having a worse environmental impact than crude oil, of being ‘dirtier’.
If it does so, it will effectively ban the tar sands products from Europe…..which is a problem for Canada not because they sell large quantities of that oil to the Europeans (they don’t) but because they sell it to the United States. Canada is worried that US regulators may follow any move Europe makes on fuel taxes and designations.
This is a HUGE deal for the Canadian government. They already export an enormous amount of Alberta tar sands oil to the United States, but TransCanada are currently awaiting a decision from the US on whether to approve the extension of Canada’s Keystone pipeline…….
The existing Keystone pipeline runs from Canada’s tar sands region in Alberta all the way to Oklahoma and Illinois. The proposed extension will see it run even further south through Texas and on to the Gulf Coast.
Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton recently told Canada that the US State Department would release an environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline this month and then decide whether to approve the project by the end of the year.
The level of public opposition in Europe to Canada’s energy policy appears to have been underestimated in Ottawa, as this snippet from an article in ‘The Dominion’ shows:
"A Wikileaks cable has revealed that in November 2009, a month before the European strategy was launched, then-Environment Minister Jim Prentice described his shock to U.S. Ambassador Jacobsen on witnessing Norwegian public sentiment against investment in Alberta’s “dirty oil,” during a visit to the country. The experience had “heightened his awareness of the negative consequences to Canada’s historically ‘green’ standing on the world stage,” and he believed the Canadian government’s reaction to the dirty oil label was “too slow” and “failed to grasp the magnitude of the situation.”
It’s therefore not surprising that Ottawa has since been busy having meetings with key Europeans…..not least the oil companies it perceives to be ‘like-minded’ allies. Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) say that the Canadian govt held 110 meetings in less than two years in Britain and Europe in a bid to derail new fuel legislation that could hit exports from its tar sands. The lobbying appears to have been so aggressive that a European parliamentarian told the Globe and Mail in March that Canada’s lobbying had been “unacceptable.”
Furthermore, FoEE is angry because it believes the Canadians are deliberately marketing tar sands as an environmentally friendly, freedom-loving, democratic product. Evidence of this can be seen in their bizarre and gobsmackingly cynical 'Ethical Oil' campaign.
FoEE have said that “the overriding message is that Canada is not exporting dirty oil, but clean energy. One of the dirtiest fuels on the planet is being sold as clean, stable and secure.”
Has any of this lobbying had an effect though? Well certain countries in Europe are famous for having scant regard for lobbying from overseas and they still look unmovable, but….surprise surprise…..the UK looks set to oppose the European move. Could this have anything to do with BP and RBS being British companies both with a stake in the tar sands? Surely not!