For five long years the federal government and the oil industry have lobbied against the European Union labeling oilsands (also called tar sands) bitumen as ‘dirty oil’ in its Fuel Quality Directive (FQD). A new report released yesterday reveals the recent involvement of the U.S. in the lobby offensive to keep the EU market open for bitumen exports has tipped the scales in favour of oilsands proponents.
“The sustained attacks by the U.S. and Canada on the European Union’s key legislation on transport fuel emissions seem to be paying off,” Fabian Flues of Friends of the Earth Europe, the author of the report, admits.
The report shows the EU Fuel Quality Directive, a piece of legislation designed to reduce global warming greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU’s transportation sector, is unlikely to acknowledge fuels from different sources of oil – conventional oil, oilsands, oil shale – have different carbon footprints. Instead all oils will more than likely be treated as having the same GHG emissions intensity 'value' in the Directive. This is exactly what Canada, the oil industy and now the U.S. have been pushing for.
“Europe is again failing to stand up effectively for its own climate policy,” Flues says.
Last week the Alberta government responded to the U.S. State Department's final supplemental environmental impact statement (FSEIS) on the Keystone XL project by emphasizing the province's responsibility, transparency, and confidence that the pipeline is in the “national interest” of both Canada and the U.S.
In a statement, Alberta Premier Alison Redford appealed to the relationship between the U.S. and Canada. Premier Redford pointed out that the FSEIS had “recognized the work we're doing to protect the environment,” saying that “the approval of Keystone XL will build upon the deep relationship between our countries and enable further progress toward a stronger, cleaner and more stable North American economy.”
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Robin Campbell also issued a statement, mentioning Alberta's “strong regulatory system” and “stringent environmental monitoring, regulation and protection legislation.”
Campbell's reminder that the natural resource sector “provides jobs and opportunities for families and communities across the country” was similar to Premier Redford's assurance that “our government is investing in families and communities,” with no mention made of corporate interests.
In order to provide a more specific and sciene-based response to the FSEIS report on Keystone XL, Pembina Institute policy analyst Andrew Read provided counterpoints to several of its central claims.
Toxins from refineries processing tar sands bitumen are dangerously polluting the air of local communities in the United States, according to a recent report by ForestEthics. Areas surrounding tar sands refineries - where a higher proportion of society's vulnerable minority, aging and poor communities live - exhibit intense levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) as a result of the high sulfur content of bitumen feed stocks used in the process. Sulfur dioxide pollution is associated with asthma and heart disease.
“The growing use of Canada's tar sands by U.S. refineries adds another health risk to those already being faced by some of the most disadvantaged communities in the United States,” said Aaron Sanger, U.S. Campaigns Director at ForestEthics and author of the report, in a press release.
At current rates, the U.S. imports 99 percent of Canadian bitumen exports. That oil is refined near low-income areas, meaning the health effects fall disproportionately on communities with disadvantaged groups. African American and Latino populations suffer higher cancer risks from refinery pollutants than the general population, according to the EPA.
The United Nations Climate Change talks kicked off yesterday in Cancun. For many, the mood began much more sombrely than last year. Copenhagen attracted celebrity clout, world leader buzz, and a sense of optimism for a binding agreement. For all Copenhagen promised, however, those who hoped for a fair and binding global deal left empty handed.
Along with analysts, pundits and the blogosphere, the U.S., UK and EU are already downplaying the chances of a deal being reached in the next fortnight. And as Desmogblog reported today, those fears may not be in vain with threats that the U.S. may pull out of the talks early.
The talks during the next two weeks are going to focus largely on forests and finance, but also on questions about the legal status of a future agreement and emissions targets, which are expected to be tackled beginning next week when ministers arrive.
The sense of general pessimism around the talks has led some to question the viability of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to deliver, and has led others to manufacture doubt over the scientific basis for action. A new report released by Oxfam argues that despite the disconsolate atmosphere, a year of extreme weather conditions demonstrate more than ever that a binding climate agreement under the UN auspices is imperative. The report,More than ever: climate talks that work for those that need them most, presents the weather events that have devastated much of the planet in the last year, and the even more harrowing costs of climate inaction.
According to the report, at least 21,000 people died due to weather-related disasters in the first nine months of this year – more than twice the number for the whole of 2009. “This year is on course to experience more extreme-weather events than the 10-year average of 770. It is one of the hottest years ever recorded,” wrote Tim Gore, Oxfam’s EUclimate change policy adviser and report’s author.
After eight years during which the United States was consistently derided as the most obstructive force in international climate negotiations, Canada moved into worst place today, receiving the “Colossal Fossil” award for having done more than any other country to drag down talks at the UN climate negotiations in Poznan.
Wind energy reduces carbon dioxide emissions and cuts natural gas and water use. Of particular interest to investors, wind power is unaffected by price swings in natural gas, coal and uranium — all of which soared this year.
The new filings reflect the deepening role of wind in the battle against climate change.
But what was unusual, and surprising, was the prominent role of economists as measured by the statement that acting quickly to cut emissions “would be the most cost-effective way to limit climate change.”
After virtually abandoning the issue for three decades, the environmental movement got a bold reality check this week from a new book highlighting relentless human population growth as a driving force behind global warming.
This wouldn’t have raised eyebrows in the 1970s, when the modern environmental movement had its genesis and Paul Erlich’s “The Population Bomb” was on just about everybody’s bookshelf.
Since then, however, overpopulation has dropped from the vocabulary of most environmentalists despite a near doubling of the world’s numbers to an estimated 6.8 billion people today.
Is it possible that amidst all the bogus claims, political controversy and foul cries about looming economic destruction, there’s actually a simple solution to the ravages of climate change?
A prominent Canadian engineer and scientist believes the solution – not just any solution but the only solution – rests within a tiny cell we ingest every day. And it can eliminate both carbon emissions and world conflict over oil supplies while saving the planet from global warming.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.