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After the mess in the U.S. over Keystone XL, Canada could really use a win on Thursday — or at least the benefit of the doubt — when the European Union votes on whether to label oil from the Alberta oil sands as “highly polluting.”
A vote in favour of the Fuel Quality Directive would signal that attitudes against the oil sands are hardening, even as far away as Europe. It would also stand out as another home run for the environmental movement and its strategy of picking on the Canadian sector to fight its climate-change and off-oil agenda.
A vote against the directive would set a favourable policy precedent for Canada as it courts new markets for oil sands crude. It would also show its intense lobbying and education efforts in Europe over the past few months are working.
The directive, driven by EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard, sets a mandatory target for fuel suppliers to reduce the carbon footprint of fuels by 6% over the next decade. The oil sands would be ascribed a higher value greenhouse value (107) than average crude oil (87.5), if byproducts are ever sold there.
Worried the EU would be unfairly discriminating against the oil sands, the Canadian government and the oil sands industry mounted an aggressive campaign to ensure greater understanding of the business.
While seen as sinister in the European press, the effort was entirely justified following years of unfettered anti-oil sands bashing by environmental NGOs, which no doubt influenced the EU’s bizarre targeting of Alberta’s oil even though it’s not sold there.
Greg Stringham, vice-president for oil sands at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, led the industry campaign. It involved a co-ordinated approach with the federal government, European oil companies with oil sands operations — Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Total SA, Statoil ASA and BP PLC. — and the large cohort of European suppliers to the sector.
It targeted the EU itself, governments of selected countries, the media and the investment community.
For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://business.financialpost.com/2012/02/22/canada-needs-an-eu-win-on-oil-sands/?__lsa=4a14c8e4