EU officials face a key decision this Thursday to officially label Canadian tar sands oil a heavily polluting fuel, which could help to keep dirty oil out of Europe. This would be the case if officials VOTE YES on proposed changes to the European Fuel Quality Directive (FQD). Canadian oil representatives have been fiercely lobbying countries like the UK, France, and the Netherlands to ‘vote no’, a blocking move that would keep us locked into a cycle of reliance on ever dirtier fossil fuels. Those promoting Canadian tar sands are re-contextualising isolated studies as their industry faces a brick wall in Europe. But the majority of scientific evidence shows that Canadian tar sands oil should be rated as highly polluting because it generates more emissions than crude oil, and the extraction process causes extensive regional damage to habitat.
EU Commissioner Hedegaard explains that in the FQD ‘the Commission identified the most carbon-intensive sources in its science-based proposal. This way high-emission fossil fuels will be labelled and given the proper value. It is only reasonable to give high values to more polluting products than to less polluting products’. Many different parties want officials to VOTE YES to the proposal including Nobel Peace Prize laureates, youth coalitions, and environmental campaigners.
Scientific studies provide strong evidence in support of a YES VOTE on the FQD. For instance a Stanford study focusing specifically on Canadian tar sands imports to Europe concluded that emissions from tar sands production are ‘significantly different enough from conventional oil emissions that regulatory frameworks should address this discrepancy’. Another study by MIT shows that using Canadian Tar Sands in the transport network, in regions like Europe, will increase overall greenhouse gas emissions and offset any gains made through low-carbon vehicle development. Beyond academia the environmental devastation caused by tar sands extraction is well documented, and exemplified by the indigenous Beaver Lake Cree People who are currently suing the Canadian government for turning their boreal homeland into a ‘Toxic wilderness’.
Due to economic implications, Canada and its oil lobby have been working hard to block the FQD. They are working behind the scenes to coerce oil interests in countries like the UK to influence the vote in their favour. They are cynically invoking a ‘trade war’ to try and incite fear. And this week they have been misrepresenting science to cloud the facts on tar sands emissions and confuse support for the FQD. Fortunately, the lobbying has been exposed, the FQD is ‘justified’ under WTO rules, and the misrepresentations of science are being comprehensively addressed. Therefore we have solid ground on which to appeal for European leaders to avoid ‘climate schizophrenia’ and push for a YES VOTE on Thursday.
If you want to support a YES VOTE then simply click here.
More on the Oily Manipulation of the Swart and Weaver study:
A study released yesterday is being used inaccurately by climate denialists and the oil lobby against the authors’ general stance, to claim that emissions from tar sands are insignificant. The argument being touted is that if we burned all our coal reserves the resulting emissions would be greater than those from burning all our known tar sands deposits, ergo, exploiting tar sands is not a problem. Leading NASA scientist James Hansen analogises this argument, he says that sure ‘smoking six packs a day is going to kill you. But if you want to make certain you die, smoke a hundred packs a day’. The Weaver study admittedly does not account for emissions associated with extraction processes. When adding so called ‘wheel to wheel’ emissions the authors calculated that emissions from tar sands can be increased by 17% from the estimate that was compared with coal emissions. This means that exploiting the known quantities of tar sands oil will raise the planet’s temperature by .4 degrees Celsius alone. Weaver himself has publicly urged people not to use this study as evidence to support tar sands development, a process which he directly opposes on grounds of greenhouse gas emission, and environmental degradation.
This is the man who -according to the Oil Lobby- thinks tar sands are no big deal…