Environmentalists on both sides of the Atlantic are aghast at the news the European Union (EU) is proposing to scrap a mandatory requirement to label tar sands crude as highly polluting.
It’s a triumph of five years of lobbying by both the tar sands industry and the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which has poured millions of taxpayer dollars into getting the EU to back off from labeling tar sands oil as “dirty oil” that contributes heavily to greenhouse gas emissions, thereby restricting its import into Europe.
Of course, the tar sands industry and the Canadian business press are gloating.
Greg Stringham, vice-president of the key industry lobby, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), told the Financial Post, “Many thought in Europe that [Canadian] industry and governments were opposed to carbon policy. When they found out we already have one that covers 100% of the oil sands in Alberta, they were surprised.”
But the EU news came on the same day that Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development released a scathing report on the federal government’s failure to reduce carbon emissions and conduct environmental monitoring in the tar sands.
Commissioner Julie Gelfand said, “My biggest concern is it does not look like Canada will meet its international [emission reductions] commitment” by 2020. “I think that when you make a commitment, you need to keep it, and it’s very difficult for us, for Canada, to expect other countries to meet their commitments when Canada can’t meet its own.”
Talk about cognitive dissonance! Or is it just the EU has naively swallowed a large quantity of tar sands PR swill?
Commissioner Gelfand also revealed the federal Conservative government has been sitting on a draft of regulations for the oil and gas sector for at least a year. The Harper government has promised emissions regulations for the tar sands since 2006.
The revised EU proposal still has to be debated by member states and will be done so through “a fast-track procedure meant to take less than two months.” It also needs to be signed off by the European Parliament.
Joyce Nelson is a freelance writer/researcher and author of five books.