Skip to content

NEWS: Alberta would oppose EU ‘discrimination’ against tar sands

The Platts news service reports that, “Alberta will oppose any move by the European Union to ban imports of crude oil from the western Canadian province because of environmental concerns, a senior government official said Tuesday (December 28).”

MLA Diana McQueen, parliamentary assistant to the provincial energy minister, said, “We will make sure oil sands products are not wrongly targeted by them (EU) under the proposed low-carbon fuels standard and emission legislation and will oppose any discrimination against our extra-heavy crude oil. In the past few years, with the application of new technology, carbon emissions in Alberta have been reduced 33% per barrel. Besides, a 12-member delegation from EU Parliament visited the Athabasca region last month and they were impressed by the work oil companies are doing in managing tailings ponds and reducing GHG (green house gas) emissions.”

The article also notes, “In 2009, the EU proposed a climate legislation that would have restricted probable fuel imports from Alberta’s oil sands in the future. The initial draft of the policy, designed to promote greener fuels, discouraged the use of oil sands products by ranking them as one of the highest carbon emitters. Following petitions and lobbying from diplomats in Ottawa suggesting that the legislation could be seen as a barrier to the signing of a free trade agreement between Canada and the EU, European experts have sought more time to study the issue.”

McQueen, the MLA for Drayton Valley-Calmar, comments, “The EU will delay adopting a final decision until late 2011. Although we do not export crude oil currently to any European state, we will still not allow them to put a wrong label on us.”

Alberta is doubtlessly also raising this issue at the ongoing Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement talks. Steve Verheul, Canada’s chief CETA negotiator, recently stated, “Unlike any previous negotiations, we are actually bringing provinces into the negotiating room on areas under their jurisdiction.”


2009: A European Union draft policy paper deems the tar sands to be 20 percent more damaging to the climate than the petroleum typically used by cars in Europe.

January 2010: Ross Hornby, Canada’s ambassador to the European Union, writes Karl Falkenberg, head of the European Commission’s environment department, objecting to the proposal that fuels derived from tar sands would be treated differently than conventional crude oil and stating that this move would constitute a ‘barrier’ to trade.

April: Seventeen Members of the European Parliament write European climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard urging her to maintain barriers to the tar sands in the draft European Union regulatory standards.

April: Kriton Arsenis, a Greek Member of the European Parliament with the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, asks EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to link trade cooperation with Canada to its climate strategy and its promotion of the tar sands.

May: The 736-member European Parliament passes a resolution expressing “its concern about the impact of the extraction of oil sands on the global environment due to the high level of CO2 emissions during its production process and the threat it poses for local biodiversity and the rights and health of indigenous peoples.”

July: The Inter Press Service reports that, “Fears of a trade dispute with Canada have made European Union officials reluctant to categorise tar sands from North America as a more polluting fuel than conventional petrol.”

October: CBC reports that Dutch Green Party Member of the European Parliament Bas Eickhhout says ‘investing in the tar sands is the wrong way to go’.

November: European MEPs visit the tar sands and Ottawa. The Council of Canadians and the Indigenous Environmental Network present the MEPs with Steven Shrybman’s legal opinion on CETA and the tar sands, http://canadians.org/trade/documents/CETA/legal-opinion-CETA-tarsands.pdf.

December: Alberta MLA McQueen makes the comments noted above.

Late-2011: European Union decision on their fuel quality directive expected.

The Platts article can be read at http://www.platts.com/RSSFeedDetailedNews/RSSFeed/Oil/6705198. More than 10,000 companies, associations, exchanges, universities and government entities in 150 countries subscribe to Platts’ information services. The report was also picked up by United Press International at http://www.upi.com/Science_News/Resource-Wars/2010/12/29/EU-cant-block-oil-sands-Canada-says/UPI-32541293628968/.