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When French peasants were starving because of widespread bread shortages during the reign of Louis XVI, his extravagant wife, Marie-Antoinette, is said to have proposed: “Let them eat cake.”
The same arrogance was on display in Europe this week, when amid desperate protests, climbing unemployment and draconian austerity measures to fix crippling state debt, the European Union pushed forward two policies marshalled by the environmental elites: a costly plan forcing airlines flying into Europe to buy credits and reduce emissions, and a plan to discriminate against oil from Canada’s oil sands as part of a new fuels quality directive it can hardly afford.
While the aviation scheme affects a multitude of countries, discrimination against the oil sands is a shot at Canada alone. It comes only a year after another patronizing EU move, a ban on seal products, that was vigorously protested by Canadians.
Under the new fuel standard proposed by the European Commission, the oil sands would be assigned a value of 107 grams of carbon dioxide per megajoule of energy, compared with 87.5 grams for conventional crude, making Canada’s oil disadvantaged in that market and setting a dangerous precedent for other jurisdictions that tend to mirror EU policy.
Meanwhile, the new ranking condones other world oils that have a similar carbon footprint — for example, oils imported by Europeans from the Middle East, Venezuela, Nigeria and Angola.
“Canada is extremely transparent and open with this,” said Greg Stringham, oil sands vice-president at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “What about all those countries that right now have a similar carbon footprint, but aren’t transparent? A policy like this will encourage them not to be transparent, because then they will get favourable treatment.”
The oil sands slap was the result of aggressive campaigning by environmental NGOs that have become very influential within the European Commission, said executives with Brussels-based government relations firm Interel European Affairs.
“They are very good at picking up an issue like this and using their grassroots presence in their member states and in using their connections with the European Parliament,” Interel’s director Benno van der Laan said in an interview in Calgary, where he was briefing companies about EU politics.
“They have been bombarding [Members of European Parliament] with messages, and as a result, [the oil sands] have become quite controversial and they are on the political agenda in the EU.”
The EU member countries that are expected to decide in the coming months whether to implement the measure may want to look beyond the green smoke and mirrors to gauge whether snubbing the oil sands is in their best interest.
Here’s a start:
For the rest of this article, please go to the National Post/Finacial Post website: http://business.financialpost.com/2011/10/08/europe-out-to-lunch/