Tyee Series On Canadian Tar Sands Interests Meddling In U.S. Politics

The Tyee has launched a new series exploring the efforts of Canadian tar sands interests to undermine low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) policies in the U.S. that could some day threaten to wipe out Alberta’s greenhouse gas-intensive oil sands industry. 

Climate change policies being implemented in California and currently under consideration in 23 other U.S. states seek to favor lower-carbon transportation fuels. Since Canada’s tar sands are widely known to be among the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive sources of oil on the planet, the tar sands would of course fall out of favor rapidly if enough U.S. states passed the low-carbon standards into law. And since laws passed by large states like California are often used to pressure Washington to set federal policies, tar sands interests have a lot at stake in battling early adopter states.

As a result, The Tyee reports:
“A sophisticated lobbying effort led by Canadian officials, fossil fuel lobby groups and several of the world’s largest oil companies is targeting policymakers and consumers across the United States.”

They certainly have their work cut out for them to convince lawmakers and the public that Canada’s tar sands are anywhere near “low carbon.”

As the Tyee notes:

“By the time the fuel [derived from Albertan tar sands] is dripping from a gas station nozzle, it’s already been responsible for 82 per cent more greenhouse gas emissions than, for instance, smooth-flowing light crude from Texas, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates.”

Tar Sands developers realize they could never compete under the scenario that fuel suppliers have to disclose the carbon footprint of their products. If low-carbon fuel standards become the norm, and all transportation fuels had to compete on the open market, the cleanest ones would win the advantage in the short term, and spur investments in even cleaner transportation choices down the line. 

That was the idea behind California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2007 executive order mandating low-carbon fuel standards. And since California voters wisely smacked down Prop 23 - the anti-clean energy ballot initiative funded by Texas refineries and Koch Industries - the LCFS policy remains intact, and nearly two dozen other states are set to follow in California’s footsteps.

That doesn’t sit well with tar sands interests, and the Tyee reports that the oil companies are working hard to derail climate policies from coast to coast, “with active support from the Canadian government.”

Read more at the Tyee, and stay tuned for the next installments in their series on tar sands politics.