Call it like it is: Green Party supports EU initiative to label Canadian bitumen exports “dirty fuel”

Despite months of aggressive lobbying from the Canadian government, the European Parliament remains poised to support a measure that would see Canadian bitumen exports labeled as more polluting than conventional oil.

This policy has many tar sands advocates, including Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, worried about potential spillover effects for the Keystone XL approval process.

On Tuesday at the Canada Europa Energy Summit in London, Minister Oliver criticized the European labeling system, known as the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), as being “opaque”, and warned that restrictions on Canadian bitumen exports would mean “lost economic opportunity.”

Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May, in Warsaw, Poland, for the COP 19 UN Climate Conference, called the EU policy a step in the right direction. “There can be no denying that Canadian oil sands bitumen is exceptionally polluting, even relative to other fossil fuels,” said May. “Instead of attacking the positive and scientifically sound climate measures being proposed in Europe, Canada would do well to emulate them and introduce other positive steps to curb greenhouse gasses.”

Minister Oliver’s criticism of the EU policy comes only a day after the Washington-based Center for Global Development ranked Canada in last place among OECD countries in environmental protection.

“There’s a reason Canada ranks lowest among industrialized nations for our climate policies,” said Green Party Climate Change Critic Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu. “We’ve backed out of our Kyoto commitments, we’ve dramatically weakened our own targets, and our emissions aren’t just not declining quickly enough, they continue to grow.”

The FQD policy is aimed at reducing the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels by 6% by the year 2020. Under the system, fuel derived from the oil sands would be rated as 22% more polluting than conventional crude oil.