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BP pushes for a guarantee on unlimited crude oil and gas exports in TTIP

BP pressured the European Union against an industrial emissions directive that would have mandated pollution cuts and clean technologies.

The Guardian reports, “The EU abandoned or weakened key proposals for new environmental protections after receiving a letter from a top BP executive which warned of an exodus of the oil industry from Europe if the proposals went ahead. In the 10-page letter, the company predicted in 2013 that a mass industry flight would result if laws to regulate tar sands, cut power plant pollution and accelerate the uptake of renewable energy were passed, because of the extra costs and red tape they allegedly entailed. …The missive to the EU’s energy commissioner, Günther Oettinger, was dated 9 August 2013, partly hand-written, and signed by a senior BP representative whose name has been redacted.”

The article adds, “In his reply to BP, Oettinger said that he shared the firm’s views on a guarantee for unlimited crude oil and gas exports being included in a TTIP free trade deal and welcomed more ‘thoughts’ from the company.”

There can be no doubt that the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the United States-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would worsen climate change.

In October 2014, Murray Dobbin wrote, “[CETA] demands that parties ensure ‘that licensing and qualification procedures are as simple as possible and do not unduly complicate or delay the supply of a service or the pursuit of any other economic activity’ (Art. 2, Sec. 7). Requiring that oil and gas companies do environmental assessments, archaeological studies or get approvals from different levels of government is clearly a process that could be made simpler by doing away with these requirements altogether. Obligations to consult with the public and First Nations certainly complicate the regulatory process and cause delays.”

In May 2015, the German-language newspaper Die Zeit reported, “In 2012 Europe imported no more than 4,000 barrels tar sands a day. But it is expected this will increase significantly: in raw form from Canada, or processed into diesel or gasoline from the US. The Natural Resources Defence Council predicts that in 2020 imports will rise to a whopping 725,000 barrels a day. Trade agreements like CETA and TTIP play an important role in this rise. …Why would trade-treaties influence our climate policies? …Trade negotiations used to be about reducing trade barriers, such as quota and import taxes, but nowadays they mostly cover the alignment of regulations.”

The article further explains, “In 2009 [Europe] accepted the so-called Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), a guideline obliging fuel suppliers to reduce CO2 emissions in the transport sector with 6 percent. The core of the new FQD measures was the distinction between various kinds of fuel based on their CO2 emissions. In a study done for the European Commission, professor Adam Brandt of Stanford University concluded that the emissions of tar sands oil are 23 percent higher than those of conventional oil. Following this research, the Commission attributed a higher emission value to tar sands oil. The message was clear: to achieve the 6 percent CO2 reduction the use of tar sands had to be discouraged.”

But, “Canada, the US and oil multinationals such as BP and Shell saw the European measures as a threat. The CETA and TTIP negotiations turned out to be a good opportunity to express their worries. The Fuel Quality Directive was a widely discussed subject during the negotiations with Canada, as becomes clear from confidential files which the Commission had to release. The Canadian minister-president Stephen Harper, ambassador Ross Hornby, a minister from the oil province Alberta: they all visited the European Commission to have their say. The European Commission eventually gave in to the pressure.”

As a result, “In the new proposal for the Fuel Quality Directive from 2014, the distinction between conventional and tar sands oil has been dropped.”

And in November 2015, the Guardian reported, “The EU appears to have given the US oil company ExxonMobil access to confidential negotiating strategies considered too sensitive to be released to the European public during its negotiations with the US on the trade agreement TTIP, documents reveal. Officials also asked one oil refinery association for ‘concrete input’ on the text of an energy chapter for the negotiations, as part of the EU’s bid to write unfettered imports of US crude oil and gas into the trade deal.”

The article adds, “Previous leaks of TTIP documents have revealed the EU is pressing for a guarantee in the trade deal that the US will allow free export of oil and gas to Europe, alarming environmentalists who fear imports would impact on the EU’s climate change plans.”

Our ally John Hilary from the UK-based group War on Want has commented, “This is an extraordinary glimpse into the full degree of collusion between the European commission and multinational corporations seeking to use TTIP to increase US exports of fossil fuels. The commission is allowing the oil majors to write the proposed energy chapter of TTIP in their favour.”

The Council of Canadians is opposed to both CETA and TTIP and has called on the Canadian government to commit to a 100 per cent clean economy by 2050. That involves rejecting all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects, as well as rejecting export pipelines like the 1.1 million barrel per day Energy East project. If ratified, these deals, with their investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions, would give transnational fossil fuel corporations new weapons to stop needed laws, policies and regulations to address the climate change crisis.