Chapter 3.png
  • California corrects Canadian lobbying

    The battle over how to classify oil extracted from tar sands and oil shale under the EU's fuel quality directive has taken an interesting turn, with California's Air Resources Board writing to the EU climate commissioner telling her not to believe some of the lobbying undertaken by Canada and the oil industry.

    With member states having to decide whether to support the Commission’s proposal to set higher emissions values for oil extracted from tar sands and oil shale, compared with oil from conventional crude sources, Canada has intensified its lobbying in an attempt to protect its tar sands industry in the western state of Alberta. Newspaper reports say the British government has been secretly supporting Canada’s campaign to have such fuels given the same carbon emissions value as conventional petrol and diesel, although the British transport minister dealing with this issue denies the UK is undermining the EU’s approach.

    But Mary Nichols, who chairs the Sacramento-based Air Resources Board (ARB), has written to Connie Hedegaard, highlighting ‘some misunderstanding’ concerning the ARB’s treatment of crude oil under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and asking to clarify the position.

    Nichols’ letter counters two of Canada’s central arguments. The Canadian government says experience in America shows that asking fuel producers to account for the lifecycle greenhouse gases of their fuels is unworkable, but Nichols says it ‘continues to be an important feature of the LCFS’. And the oil industry is claiming the reporting requirements for fuel producers in the draft EU directive would impose a significant administrative and financial burden on them, yet Nichols says the burden is ‘minimal’ as oil companies ‘already track and report their crude oil information as a normal course of business’.

    Earlier this month Canada announced it was withdrawing from the Kyoto protocol. The reason it gave was that complying with the requirements would place an unreasonable burden on its economy, but observers suggest the real reason is that the country could not at the same time comply with Kyoto and expand its tar sands industry, which is the industrial sector with the fastest growing emissions in the country.

    T&E says any weakening of the proposed default values will not reflect the true climate impact of different fuel production processes and therefore make the directive meaningless. According to independent research, emissions from tar sands are on average 23% higher than those from conventional oil.

    Download the letter at