Europe faces flood of tar sands as Commission moves to scrap clean fuel targets

tar sands

Failing to implement the Fuel Quality Directive could leave Europe faced with a flood of tar sands imports. Creative Commons: Dru Oja Jay, Dominion, 2008

New research is warning imports of Canadian tar sands into Europe could skyrocket to 700,000 barrels a day by 2020 as the EU Commission looks to scrap its Fuel Quality Directive (FQD).

Aimed at reducing greenhouse gas intensity of transport fuels by 6% by 2020, the FQD is yet to be fully implemented as the EU has so far failed to set out accurate carbon labelling for fuels, including tar sands.

Research from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) warns that failing to set out these measures could mean imports of tar sands – considered to be 23% more carbon intensive than conventional oil – “will grow from a trickle to a flood”, resulting in an emissions increase in transport equivalent of adding around six million cars on European roads.

Colin Roche, extractives campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said:

Trying to reduce the carbon-emissions from our fuels by importing more of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel in commercial production makes no sense. We need to keep tar sands out of Europe. President Barroso should stop giving in to the oil industry and fully implement the Fuel Quality Directive now.

Far from a 6% decrease, it could lead to a 1.5% increase in the greenhouse gas intensity of transport fuels and encourage a growth in Canada’s tar sands industry.


Courtesy of: NRDC

More worryingly for campaigners, the Commission appears to have caved into the intense lobbying efforts of oil companies and the Canadian government this week, using its proposals on EU 2030 climate and energy policies to “quietly scrap the FQD” from 2020.

Nusa Urbancic, policy manager for clean fuels at Transport & Environment said:

The Commission is using the climate and energy package as an excuse to quietly scrap the FQD – the best EU law aimed at lowering emissions from transport fuel. This is good news for oil companies and Alberta, with its high-carbon tar sands, but bad news for Europe in our move towards a more sustainable transport system.

Groups warn dropping the legislation would spell “bad news” for Europe’s climate targets and allow a “flood of tar sands to wreck its carbon footprint” – particularly if new pipelines are approved.

They are now calling for Member States to reverse the decision when they discuss the proposals in March, ensure the current legislation is fully implemented, and “keep tar sands out of Europe”.

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