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Will Energy East take the tar sands to Italy?

Photo: The Priolo Gargallo Isab Refinery in Sicily, Italy.
Photo: The Priolo Gargallo Isab Refinery in Sicily, Italy.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated, “The Energy East pipeline would pose serious threats to local water supplies and communities along the route. The option then to export to the much larger and more profitable markets of India, China and Europe from the deep water port in Saint John with massive tankers in the Bay of Fundy is a major concern of ours.”

Today, the Edmonton Journal reports, “Italy’s goal of diversifying its global energy supplies could eventually pave the way for crude imports from Alberta’s oilsands. In an interview Monday with the Journal, Gian Lorenzo Cornado, Italy’s ambassador to Canada, said his country will consider importing crude from Alberta if TransCanada’s proposed $12-billion Energy East pipeline gets built.”

The article continues, “Italy, which has (with about 16 oil refineries) the second-largest crude oil refining capacity in Europe after Germany, imports about two million barrels of oil and refined petroleum products a day. Its key suppliers include Libya, Saudi Arabia and Russia. Russia’s invasion of Crimea and rising tensions in eastern Ukraine have prompted Italy and other European nations to intensify efforts to reduce their reliance on Russian energy, however.”

The Italian ambassador says “For Italy and for Italian companies like Saipem (which opened a large plant in Edmonton last year), we are interested to be among the key players to come here and exploit these resources, but also with a view to (securing) a possible supply of Canadian oil to Europe. …Right now we are talking about (importing liquefied natural gas) but maybe one day we’ll also be talking about oil. …It (importing Alberta crude) will be a matter of costs of course, and it’s not something we will be able to do tomorrow, since 2018 is the time frame (for Energy East). So it will definitely depend on Alberta’s competitiveness. But we want to diversify our sources of energy, and with Canada being a very close friend, partner and ally, it would be an absolutely reliable supplier.”

A few points to keep in mind:

  • Intensive lobbying by the Harper government has helped stall the European Fuel Quality Directive that would have restricted or blocked imports of tar sands-derived transport fuels because of their higher carbon content.

  • In the Canada-European Union ‘trade’ agreement (CETA), Canadian negotiators agreed to raise the threshold for reviewing foreign takeovers from $1-billion to $1.5-billion for European companies only. That means more European companies seeking to “exploit these resources” in the tar sands.

  • The investor-state provision in CETA would enable companies based in the European Union to sue Canada for any level of government actions that impair the value of their assets in Canada, or in this instance specifically, in the tar sands.

The Council of Canadians began following the proposed Energy East pipeline when the idea for it first became public in March 2012. In February 2013 we issued our first media release in opposition to the pipeline. For more on our campaign against Energy East, please click here.