Alberta-Tar-Sands.jpg

UK Support For Tar Sands Oil Imports Into EU Indicated In Leaked Papers

For a while now, the UK government has been dragging its feet behind other European countries trying to deter future imports of Canadian tar sands oil into the EU. The UK, home to British Petroleum (BP), has an oil industry with vested interests in the Albertan tar sands, and opened a new consulate in Calgary in 2011. Recent papers leaked to the Guardian by Greenpeace may be the clearest sign yet that the UK will support Canada in encouraging tar sands oil imports to Europe.

John Vidal writes in the Guardian, that "in EU negotiations on laws intended to encourage the use of low-carbon transport fuels, the UK has rejected language that would class tar sands oil as more polluting than conventional crude or other fuels."

In its fuel quality directive, the European Commission has proposed that fuel produced from tar sands bitumen be designated "highly polluting," contributing 22 per cent more GHG emissions than conventional fuels. Under the directive, suppliers have to make a 10 per cent cut in GHG emissions from their fuels by 2020. Officially labelling tar sands oil as a high polluter would keep European suppliers away from it to help reach that goal, which the Commission hopes will "cut emissions by a cumulative total of 500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2020."

Faced with six options to implement the above proposal, the UK reportedly rejected all but "the two that would make no differentiation between the carbon content of fuels," citing these as least likely to lead to "unexpected consequences." It's likely that the UK fears the more expected consequences of the directive–the curbing of tar sands oil trade in European markets.

Norman Baker, a British minister for the Department of Transport, has denied Greenpeace's allegations that the UK government isn't committed to reducing GHG emissions. Vidal quotes Baker as saying that the UK "[wants] an effective solution to address the carbon emissions from all highly polluting crudes, not simply those from oil sands… I take this issue seriously and that is why I have arranged to meet Jim Hansen this week to discuss the matter."

Baker made the same point in 2011, saying that the Commission's proposal "should be tackling all high polluting crudes equally, not simply oil sands from one particular country." This even though, as the Guardian pointed out then, the proposal doesn't single out any one nation. A Stanford University study for the Commission also confirmed tar sands fuel to be a higher polluter by a clear margin.

Former NASA climate scientist Jim Hansen, whom Baker was preparing to meet in London when the papers were leaked, has been a strong opponent of tar sands exploitation. In a 2012 op-ed piece for the New York Times, Hansen said that "it will be game over for the climate" if Canada continues to extract oil from the tar sands.

Despite British Prime Minister David Cameron's claim that his would be the "greenest government ever," it seems the UK will remain a staunch ally of the Harper government when it comes to putting the oil industry above the need for proactive action against climate change.

Image Credit: NFWBlogs / Flickr

Hey there keener,
Thanks for being an avid reader of our in-depth journalism, which is read by millions and made possible thanks to more than 4,200 readers just like you.

The Narwhal's growing team is hitting the ground running in 2022 to tell stories about the natural world that go beyond doom-and-gloom headlines — and we need your support.

Our model of independent, non-profit journalism means we can pour resources into doing the kind of environmental reporting you won’t find anywhere else in Canada, from investigations that hold elected officials accountable to deep dives showcasing the real people enacting real climate solutions.

There’s no advertising or paywall on our website (we believe our stories should be free for all to read), which means we count on our readers to give whatever they can afford each month to keep The Narwhal’s lights on.

The amazing thing? Our faith is being rewarded. We hired 14 new staff over the past year and won a boatload of awards for our features, our photography and our investigative reporting.

With your help, we’ll be able to do so much more in 2022. If you believe in the power of independent journalism, join our pod by becoming a Narwhal today. (P.S. Did you know we’re able to issue charitable tax receipts?)
Hey there keener,
Thanks for being an avid reader of our in-depth journalism, which is read by millions and made possible thanks to more than 4,200 readers just like you.

The Narwhal's growing team is hitting the ground running in 2022 to tell stories about the natural world that go beyond doom-and-gloom headlines — and we need your support.

Our model of independent, non-profit journalism means we can pour resources into doing the kind of environmental reporting you won’t find anywhere else in Canada, from investigations that hold elected officials accountable to deep dives showcasing the real people enacting real climate solutions.

There’s no advertising or paywall on our website (we believe our stories should be free for all to read), which means we count on our readers to give whatever they can afford each month to keep The Narwhal’s lights on.

The amazing thing? Our faith is being rewarded. We hired seven new staff over the past year and won a boatload of awards for our features, our photography and our investigative reporting.

With your help, we’ll be able to do so much more in 2022. If you believe in the power of independent journalism, join our pod by becoming a Narwhal today. (P.S. Did you know we’re able to issue charitable tax receipts?)

RCMP were planning raids while in talks with Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs about meeting

The images are familiar now, iconic even: Heavily armed RCMP officers use an axe and a chainsaw to break down the door of a tiny...

Continue reading

Recent Posts

Help us publish three ambitious investigations
Help us publish three ambitious investigations
Get The Narwhal in your inbox!
People always tell us they love our newsletter. Find out yourself with a weekly dose of our ad‑free, independent journalism
Get The Narwhal in your inbox!
People always tell us they love our newsletter. Find out yourself with a weekly dose of our ad‑free, independent journalism
We’re on a mission to add 500 new members in May so we can pull off three more ambitious investigations this year — and we’re nearly halfway there! Will you join the thousands of readers who make The Narwhal possible?
‘These are the stories that need to be told’
We’re on a mission to add 500 new members in May so we can pull off three more ambitious investigations this year — and we’re nearly halfway there! Will you join the thousands of readers who make The Narwhal possible?
‘These are the stories that need to be told’