Oil sands spared ‘dirty’ label in EU vote – by Shawn McCarthy (Globe and Mail – February 24, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Ottawa’s lobbying campaign pays off; blocked regulation preserves access to global markets

OTTAWA — GLOBAL ENERGY REPORTER – The Harper government picked up key support from France and the Netherlands in blocking a proposed European Union fuels directive that would target the oil sands as a particularly emissions-intensive source of crude.

A vote in Brussels on Thursday gave the Canadian government a win in its battle to preserve global markets for oil sands producers against an environmental lobbying effort, which wants refiners worldwide to pay financial penalties for using the carbon-intensive Alberta crude as well as other sources of “dirty” fuel.

Ottawa has been lobbying the Europeans for two years for fundamental changes to an EU proposal to label oil sands as being more carbon-intensive than other crude sources – a tag that would effectively ban oil sands crude, and threaten to snowball to other regions. Britain had clearly indicated it was in Canada’s camp, but on Thursday, France and the Netherlands helped derail the proposed regulation by abstaining on the vote, which needed a majority of total votes to pass.

All three countries are home to international oil companies – Britain’s BP, Royal Dutch Shell of the Netherlands, and France’s Total – that are expanding operations in the oil sands.

The European firms have faced shareholder resolutions urging them to pull out.

With the stalemate at the EU technical committee, European ministers will have to decide on the fate on the directive in June, and Alberta Premier Alison Redford and federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said they will keep up the lobbying pressure.

The Brussels vote was the latest in a series of setbacks in Europe and North America for proponents of low-carbon fuel regulations that are aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.

Backed by the oil industry, the federal and Alberta governments have lobbied aggressively on both continents to derail regulatory efforts that would establish financial disincentives to discourage refiners and marketers from using fuel derived from oil sands bitumen in favour of lower-carbon sources of fuel.

In California, where the low-carbon fuel standard was a pioneer, the local industry won a federal court decision in December that ruled the regulation is unconstitutional. The court issued an injunction blocking the regulations’ implementation while the state appeals the lower court ruling. Other states that were considering following California’s lead have slowed implementation and, in some cases, indicated they don’t intend to proceed.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: https://secure.globeadvisor.com/servlet/ArticleNews/story/gam/20120224/RBEUOILSANDSMCCARTHYATL

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