Leaked Papers Show UK Government Will Backtrack on Tar Sands Extraction Being Classified As Highly Polluting

| 17th May 2013

Putting profit first when it comes to tar sands could mean 'game over' for the planet.



Allowing tar sands oil into Europe would be a victory for ‘profit-before-planet’ politics warns Lorna Howarth
Money talks as UK politicians back dirty oil

The UK government has come under fire this week from both NGOs and scientists for rejecting an EU proposal to classify tar sands under the European Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) as ‘highly polluting’ – despite the fact research has shown that oil produced from the Canadian tar sands emits 3-4 times more greenhouse gases than does conventional oil.

It follows the week’s visit of high profile Canadian Ministers Joe Oliver and Peter Kent who flew to London as part of a pan-European mission to promote the Canadian tar sands industry and lobby against the FQD. 

Kent, who is the Canadian Environment Minister, is on record as saying “Climate change is a very real and present danger and we need to address it.” 

Extracting oil from the Canadian tar sands – the biggest industrial project on earth – is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and indeed, is the primary reason why Canada will fail to meet its own greenhouse gas reduction targets.

So it must be disconcerting for Canadians to see this major disconnect in their Environment Minister’s thinking. Likewise, it is equally disconcerting for UK citizens to see their own Under Secretary of State for Transport, Norman Baker, displaying the same inability to connect the dots. 

As Jess Worth, from the UK Tar Sands Network points out: “Norman Baker says he supports a Fuel Quality Directive that takes emissions from tar sands into account. But if this is the case, why does the recently-leaked document clearly state that the UK government says it 'prefers' to lump tar sands in with all other sources of oil? At the moment it looks like Baker is toeing the oil industry line on this matter.”

The leaked document referred to by Jess Worth was published on the Greenpeace ‘EnergyDesk’ website earlier this week. It showed that the UK government is set to change its position and push the EU to allow the import of carbon-intensive oils from the Tar Sands despite it being 23% more polluting than conventional fuels, thus making a mockery of the EU FQD. There will be another vote on the FQD later in 2013.

Money talks as UK politicians back dirty oil

However, all is not lost: prominent former NASA climate scientist Dr James Hansen, and respected Canadian economist Professor Mark Jaccard are bringing the opposite message to the UK: that tar sands extraction has no place in the world's future energy mix; that the process should be accurately labelled in the FQD as highly polluting and that it should be kept out of Europe. 

As part of their own pan-European tour, Hansen and Jaccard's visit to London will include a meeting with the Department for Transport, which is ultimately responsible for the UK's position on the FQD and they will also be giving evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee.

Emily Coats, from the UK Tar Sands Network, said, “We are thrilled to see these world-renowned scientists crashing the oil peddlers' transatlantic travelling circus. The UK needs to hear the cold hard truth about the tar sands industry, rather than Canada's fanciful spin. 

As James Hansen himself has said, if the tar sands are exploited as planned, it will be 'game over' for the climate. But labeling tar sands as a highly polluting fuel would be a long overdue step towards reining in this reckless industry, and the UK government – if it is to retain any semblance of green credibility – should throw its weight behind it.”

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Lorna Howarth is a writer and environmentalist. She is a contributing editor to Resurgence & Ecologist magazine and the founder of a small independent publishing agency:

The Write Factor www.thewritefactor.co.uk 

Contact: Lorna@resurgence.org

Image courtesy of www.shutterstock.com

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