The European Commission on Tuesday unveiled proposed legislation to toss out a requirement to label tar sands oil as dirtier than other fossil fuels—a move that is likely to bolster Canada’s bitumen industry as it jockeys to break into European markets.
Five years ago the Commission agreed to a piece of climate legislation called the ‘Fuel Quality Directive,’ which was to be implemented in 2010 with the aim of cutting transport fuel emissions by 6 percent by the year 2020. The Commission previously proposed under this directive to require that that tar sands be reported as a greater carbon emitter than conventional crude, which could have led to a penalty on bitumen, most of which comes from Canada.
However, following years of heavy industry pressure and government stalling, the plan still has not gone into effect.
According to a report released this summer by Friends of the Earth Europe, Canada and the United States have aggressively lobbied to weaken the proposal by using negotiations over a “free trade” deal with Europe—the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership—to press for a loosening of protections against tar sands.
The proposed legislation unveiled Tuesday suggests this lobbying was successful. Under the submitted rules, corporations sending raw fuel to European refiners would not have to single out tar sands as more polluting, but rather, would be allowed to report on the “average default value” of all raw fossil fuels when meeting their 6 percent emissions cuts. Critics charge that the new methodology, which was first revealed to the press in June, undermines efforts to disincentivize tar sands imports into Europe.
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