While most European countries are working on a proposal that would effectively ban the use of Canadian tar sands in the European Union, the United Kingdom has made it clear that they will not support any measure to reduce their reliance on tar sands. Britain joins the Netherlands as one of only two countries that want to continue to have the option to use oil derived from Canadian tar sands.
The EU is working to produce a new “fuel directive” this year that would reduce the amount of emissions acceptable from fuels used for transportation. The directive would require a 6% reduction in the amount of emissions from vehicle fuel over the next 9 years. Because the emissions from tar sands run about 23% higher than those from traditional fossil fuels, this would mean that their use in the EU would be effectively prohibited.
From The Independent:
To date, the UK and the Netherlands, two nations with the strongest connections to oil giants BP and Shell, are the only two states wishing to remove reference to tar sands from the draft proposal, according to the coalition of green groups working on the directive.
Canada’s tar sands contain the world’s largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia, but extracting the oil can release up to three times more greenhouse gases.
It is estimated the sands hold about 175 billion barrels of recoverable oil, but the trapped crude is in such thick form that large amounts of energy and water are needed to refine it. The development of Canada’s tar sands has led to a push by oil companies to set up similar ventures in Russia and Congo.
European leaders and activists are afraid that if countries like Britain and the Netherlands continue to court tar sands imports from Canada, their entire climate initiative will fail.
Emma Pullman pointed out recently that the Canadian government has been actively, and secretly, working with EU leaders to help push the use of tar sands. From her report:
The Canadian government has carried out a secret plan to boost investment and keep world markets open for Alberta’s filthy tar sands oil. Their strategies include collaboration with major oily allies to aggressively undermine European environmental measures.
In December 2009, the federal government “oil sands advocacy strategy” was launched out of fear that growing opposition could curb European investment in the industry and that the EU restrictions on tar sands imports could be mimicked globally.
While very little of Alberta’s tar sands oil is actually exported to Europe (the lion’s share goes to the U.S.), entrenched tar sands defenders in Canadian government and the oil companies who stand to profit from it were concerned that European efforts to favor low-carbon fuel sources could influence other countries seeking ways to reduce global warming pollution.