Since its inception in 2009, the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), a European Union regulation aimed at reducing the climate impact of transport fuels, has been attacked by powerful lobby interests that do not want the EU to take action to curtail the use of particularly greenhouse gas intensive fossil fuels.
While the FQD aims to reduce the climate impact of fossil fuels by addressing all sources of high carbon oil (for example oil shale, coal-to-liquid or tar sands), the oil industry has waged an extensive lobby campaign to portray the FQD as unfairly discriminating against one specific oil source: tar sands.
The Canadian government has been acting as dirty oil’s ad- vocate since 2009, putting pressure on the EU through trade negotiations and threatening to file a complaint at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). But recently the pressure on the EU to weaken the Fuel Quality Directive has increased notably, with oil industry groups taking the lead on lobbying efforts. And oil companies and refiners have found a new lobby vehicle to attack the FQD: the ongoing negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
The EU and the US are currently the world’s largest trading blocs and, if agreed, the TTIP would be the world’s largest free-trade agreement. EU and US negotiators have repeatedly stated that they aim to make the TTIP a “gold standard” agreement, or a blueprint for future trade agreements. It is therefore of critical importance that the agreement does not undermine social or environmental objectives or the ability of governments to tackle climate change.
In this context, the FQD, the European Union’s key policy to tackle greenhouse gas emissions from transport fuels, can be seen as a showcase example of how big business and their lobby groups are using the TTIP negotiations to weaken and delay environmental regulation. While the US officially claims that it is merely interested in transparent decision-making, letters and emails obtained through access to document requests reveal that the US has acted in concert with fossil fuel interests and has pushed behind the scenes against effective regulations to reduce the climate footprint of the Europe’s transport fuels. More specifically, US government officials have objected to the treatment of tar sands in the FQD, as this briefing reveals.