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EU Canada oil sands debate continues

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

In a sign that the dispute, between the government of Canada and the EU, over the proposed reclassification of oil sands crude is far from over, the government of Alberta, Canada has released a further study examining the amount of carbon produced by the oil sands refining process.

According to the study, emissions levels created by crude oil refined from oil sands are just 12% higher than emissions levels created by conventional methods.

Canada and the EU have been engaged in a debate over the EU’s proposal to reclassify oil sands crude as particularly polluting. The EU proposal was based in part on a study from 2011 that found that oil sands crude was up to 22% more polluting.

Canada has been particularly assertive in trying to sway the EU from the proposal and has been engaged in a lobbying campaign that has been described as “stunning in its intensity.” One factor marking the campaign out as particularly unusual is the fact that it has the backing of the Canadian state, rather than just industry representatives. A Finnish MEP, Satu Hassi, said, “There have been massive lobbying campaigns by the car industry, by the chemicals industry, banks, food giants etc. But so far I have not seen such a lobbying campaign by any state.”

At first glance, the row appears to be a case of making a mountain out of a molehill, especially as the vast majority of Canadian oil exports are shipped to the US, and not the EU. However, the reasoning behind Canada’s defensiveness over the issue became clear when Joe Oliver, Canada’s Minister for Natural Resources said, “We don’t want the potential stigmatization and we’re quite concerned about that issue.”

Canada is worried that if the EU reclassification goes ahead, it will set a precedent implying that oil sands crude is too dirty to use, which would likely make it more difficult to find willing buyers of oil sands crude. Negative opinion towards oil sands crude could also impact multi-billion dollar investments and threaten the economic security of the country that called itself the “clean energy superpower.”

Canada has threatened to take the issue to the WTO if the EU continues to press ahead with the proposed classification change.



Based on various sources and written by David Bizley

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