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Jason Langrish is the executive director of the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business.
Its Fuel Quality Directive is impossible to implement
Today, the European Parliament votes on the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), a piece of legislation that will in effect classify oil derived from the Alberta oil sands as “dirty,” possessing a higher carbon content than oil derived from other sources.
Canadian climate scientist Andrew Weaver recently published a paper that concluded that the reputation of the oil sands as polluting is overstated. So who are we to believe?
It really doesn’t matter. The reason why the FQD is a bad idea has to do with the questionable aims of the proposed legislation and the near impossibility of implementing it in a meaningful way.
If the EU wants to cut carbon dioxide emissions from upstream production, the FQD is not the right instrument. If oil sands products do not enter the EU they will find other markets, ensuring that there is no reduction in carbon dioxide emissions globally — any carbon dioxide cut the EU would claim from implementation would be false, as the FQD would simply shift the carbon dioxide elsewhere in the global system.
It is much better to look at schemes such as flaring reduction, which has proven effective in reducing carbon emissions, than to try to force a piece of legislation designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions in fuels (i.e., the downstream/combustion part of the life cycle) onto upstream production.
A second consideration is that emissions from oil fields vary dramatically over time according to geology, reservoir pressure, etc. It is not possible to define a static carbon dioxide emissions value that is accurate per crude type or by country of origin. This is exacerbated by the fact that only the EU, Norway and Alberta monitor and produce accurate carbon dioxide emissions data. National oil companies and sovereign governments retain emissions data for the vast majority of oil production globally, where the majority of carbon dioxide emissions from production take place.
Third, applying the label “unconventional” to oil sands in the way the EC has chosen to define it (i.e., as a fundamentally different product from other “conventional” crudes) is misleading and inaccurate. Oil sands are a hydrocarbon, the product is oil. The geology may be different, the product is not.
For the rest of this article, please go to the National Post website: http://opinion.financialpost.com/2012/02/22/eus-dubious-attack-on-the-oil-sands/