Claire Rosemberg, Agence France-Presse, Postmedia News, February 24, 2012
Move to label fuel higher polluter goes to committee next
A fierce argument over EU moves to label oil from Canada's massive oilsands reserves as highly polluting looked set to deepen when talks between experts from the 27-nation bloc ended in a stalemate Thursday.
Canada, which had threatened to retaliate should the European Union tag the oil as specially harmful to the environment, welcomed the result.
"We are pleased to see that many EU countries are opposed to this discriminatory measure," said Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.
Canada, sitting on the world's third-largest reserves thanks to Alberta's oilsands, had warned it would lodge a complaint at the World Trade Organization if a committee of 345 EU experts voted in favour of proposals affecting the fuel.
But "the committee failed to give an opinion, there was no qualified majority for or against," said European Commission spokesman Isaac Valero Ladron.
The issue will now go to EU environment ministers meeting in June. If approved, it would then be put to the European Parliament.
Committee members from Britain, France and Germany abstained in the vote, while those from Italy voted against, diplomatic sources said.
Sweden and Denmark approved the proposals, notably a table setting greenhouse-gas values for unconventional fossil fuels - part of the bid to cut carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020.
Oilsands oil is estimated to cause 22 per cent more greenhouse-gas emissions than convention-al crude.
"Unconventional fuels need to account for their considerably higher emissions through separate values," said EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard.
After fierce lobbying from oil corporations and pressure from Ottawa, Thursday's vote was seen as a key test of the EU's ability to implement its climate-change policies.
Environmental groups were not pleased.
Greenpeace EU transport policy adviser Franziska Achterberg said: "The evidence is clear: tarsands are the world's dirtiest fuels. The decision is even clearer: ministers should stand up to the oil industry and ban them from Europe."
The commission proposals make it clear to buyers unconventional sources have far greater green-house-gas values than average crude oil, ascribed a value of 87.5 grams per megajoule of fuel against 107 for oilsands.
Canada is, with Venezuela, the world's top oilsands oil producer but does not export to Europe.
It hopes to triple production by 2020 and is planning pipelines through the U.S. European oil giants such as Shell, BP and Total have invested in the Canadian fields.
COURT REJECTS OILSANDS CASE An Alberta First Nation that says its treaty rights were violated when the province granted oilsands leases to Shell Canada Ltd. has lost its bid to take the case to the country's top court.
The Supreme Court of Canada announced Thursday it would not hear the appeal from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, whose case had been summarily dismissed by an Alberta court.
Shell's Athabasca Oil Sands project, is in the First Nation's traditional territory in northeastern Alberta.
Under the treaty, provincial policy is to consult with aboriginal groups when development could adversely affect traditional uses and their constitutionally protected rights to hunt, trap, and fish.
But the government says it deals with those issues later in the process, and does not consult at the preliminary lease-granting stage.
© The Province 2012