Dirty politics unfairly singles out Canada’s oil sands – by Claudia Cattaneo (September 28, 2013)

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Much like the Keystone XL debacle in Washington, the EU’s proposed Fuel Quality Directive illustrates the hypocrisy of climate change politics — tough to sell at home, the pain of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is pushed abroad to feign the appearance of progress.

How else to explain that of all the things the European Union and the United States could be doing to clean up their own carbon mess both seem so hung up on punishing Canada’s oil sands?

And so just like the U.S. is dragging its feet on approving the Keystone XL pipeline between Alberta and Texas to fan the illusion among the green classes that it’s doing something about the climate, the EU is attempting another vote later this year on a fuel quality directive (FDQ) that singles out the oil sands — and no other oil sources.

It’s dirty politics. The pending vote is such a worry to Alberta that two senior ministers are heading for another tour of European capitals, at a cost of $85,700 to taxpayers, to try yet again to expose the imbroglio. They are latest of many trips to European countries over the past few years by Alberta and federal government representatives.

What’s disappointing is that years of Canadian pushback that the directive is discriminatory has not changed the anti-oil sands’ nature of the proposal, spearheaded by EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard. As it stands, it pegs bitumen from the oil sands as emitting 22% more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude, making it more expensive and more complicated for Europeans to use, while setting a bad precedent.

There is no scientific basis for the number and getting answers from the EU about why it’s targeting the oil sands has been difficult, Cal Dallas, Alberta’s International Relations Minister, who leaves Saturday for a blitz of Eastern European capitals, said in an interview.

“As proposed today, the [FQD] takes all those other oil sources and assigns a single GHG value to those sources, and then takes oil sands-derived bitumen and assigns a single value to it, which is different than the others,” he said in an interview. “And we are saying: that is not supported by science.”

There are other offensive parts. The EU doesn’t know the GHG emissions of many of its oil suppliers because, unlike Canada, they simply don’t tell — but that doesn’t seem to be a worry.

“Even by the EU commission’s own documentation, 60% of all the EU crude oil sources don’t have any lifecycle emission reporting at all,” Dallas said. “The level of transparency in terms of some of the practices in the originating countries that are producing oil for the European Union is of significant concern to us.”

Dallas said 80% of the oil exported to the EU comes from countries that use high flaring (controlled burn of natural gas produced with the oil) and high venting (the natural gas is released into the atmosphere), but they get away with emissions that are likely way above oil sands levels because they are not declared, Dallas said.

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