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  • Flood of tar sands would dramatically increase Europe’s transport emissions – report

    New research from the US has highlighted the dangers for the fight against climate change if the EU does nothing to reduce dependence on dirty oil such as  Canadian tar sands. The US Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says if the EU Fuel Quality Directive is not comprehensively implemented, the amount of tar sands oil imported from Canada by 2020 will be 175 times greater than in 2012. This flood of tar sands would increase the carbon intensity of European fuels by 1.5%, making it more difficult and more expensive to meet the FQD’s 6% target by 2020.

    In 2009, the EU adopted the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), with a commitment to reducing carbon intensity of EU transport fuels by 6% by 2020. But it cannot be fully implemented until detailed rules on reporting and labelling the carbon content of fuels for oil companies are agreed. A proposal was released in 2011, but a massive lobbying operation by Canada and the oil industry has led to paralysis in the EU decision-making process.
    Now the NRDC, an environmental NGO, has investigated the pathways for tar sands oil imports to Europe. It concludes that failure to comprehensively implement the clean fuel standard set out in the FQD would lead to EU oil imports derived from tar sands rising from 4,000 barrels per day in 2012 to 700,000 in 2020. As tar sands oil is on average 23% more carbon-intensive than conventional crude oil, this would amount to adding six million cars to Europe’s roads in emissions terms.
    T&E, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth issued a statement calling on Commission president José Manuel Barroso to stop favouring the oil industry and implement the FQD now. T&E’s clean fuels officer, Nusa Urbancic, said: ‘Europe has set itself the target to decarbonise its economy, and a big part of that means decarbonising transport fuels in the most efficient way possible.’
    ‘Any failure to account for the full climate impact of oil from tar sands is going to raise emissions and raise the costs of decarbonisation by billions of euros, through the use of expensive biofuels. Europe needs to introduce company-specific reporting obligations for fuel suppliers, so they can choose which fuels make up their supply and incentivise those with lower emissions. The NRDC report shows how urgent it is that the EU must approve the FQD without making concessions.’
    The NRDC’s research shows that imports of Canadian tar sands are likely to be between 5.3% and 6.7% of the EU’s oil consumption by 2020 if the FQD is not robustly implemented. By contrast, the Commission’s impact assessment originally predicted just 0.2% by 2020.
    The findings from America came in the same week that the Commission published its white paper on a climate and energy package for 2030. One sentence, inserted in the final weeks of negotiations within the commission, says that the FQD greenhouse gas intensity target should not continue beyond 2020. This effortto stop the best EU tool for reducing emissions from transport fuels after 2020 can still be reversed by member states and the Parliament. In addition, the 6% decarbonisation target for 2020 is still in place and a new proposal for implementing measures is expected in the coming months.