The move by the Commission comes despite the fact that it has officially recognized that tar sands oil extraction is dangerous for the planet. Bitumen is one of the dirtiest fuels on earth, produces up to five times more carbon than conventional crude oil, and its extraction process is extremely energy-intensive and destructive to ecosystems and creates large reservoirs of toxic waste.

“The Commission has recognized the highly polluting nature of tar sands but is going to let this climate killer be used by European oil companies with no penalty at all,” said Colin Roche, extractives campaigner with Friends of the Earth Europe. “The Commission has clearly seen the problem but – under heavy pressure from the oil industry and the Canadian and US government – chosen not to act on it.”

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Tuesday’s proposal will be put through a two-month fast-track approval process and still must be debated by member states and rubber stamped by the European Union parliament.

In June, the first shipment of tar sands to Europe was met with protests, with demonstrators urging that tar sands must be left in the ground. The release of the Commission’s proposal on Tuesday comes the same day 700,000 barrels of tar sands oil are slated to arrive in Italy, marking the second such shipment to Europe.

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