• High carbon oil: California backs law to move away from dirty oil, while Europe is still talking

    Europe’s climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard is meeting EU environment ministers today to discuss Europe’s plan to force oil companies to clean up transport fuels. The meeting comes amid a long-running lobbying campaign by Canada and the oil industry who are resisting attempts to force dirty sources of oil such as tar sands and coal-to-liquid to be produced in a more sustainable way. Meanwhile, California, America’s largest transport fuel market, gave renewed backing on Friday to its own ‘Low Carbon Fuel Standard’: the world’s first.

    The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has moved forward with full accounting for dirtier fuel sources like tar sands, sending a strong signal that California will hold refineries responsible for increased dirty fuel use.

    Nusa Urbancic, Programme Manager for Clean Fuels at Transport & Environment said: “The world’s addiction to oil is on the brink of turning into a much more damaging dependence on high carbon oil. But while California is taking action, the EU is still talking. Europe must now follow California by sending a signal to the world that dirty oil is a third-rate product that we don’t want. The message should be loud and clear: dirty oil should clean up or stay out.”

    According to the European Voice newspaper (1), Canada and oil companies have been spreading misinformation in Europe about California’s law – leading the top CARB official to take the extraordinary step, earlier this month, of writing to the European Commission to clarify the situation. Mary Nichols, the chairwoman of the CARB, said: “The principle of accounting for life-cycle greenhouse-gas emissions, including those associated with production and transport of crude oil, continues to be an important feature of the low-carbon fuel standard.”

    In a related development, Canada signaled last week that it would formally withdraw from the Kyoto protocol, a widely-criticised move linked to protection of its tar sands industry.

    Ms Urbancic commented: “Canada’s withdrawal from Kyoto confirms that its opposition to Europe’s action on high carbon oil was not based on genuine concerns about the science but rather on the narrow economic interests of one politically powerful sector of its economy.”

    The EU’s fuel quality directive, agreed in 2009, commits fuel suppliers to reducing carbon emissions from fuel production by 6% between 2010 and 2020 – but to do this, the directive has to give ‘carbon values’ to fuels based on their greenhouse gas emissions. The Commission’s ‘implementation’ proposal is for tar sand fuels to be given an emissions value 23% higher than petrol and diesel made from conventional oil, because tar sand extraction and processing is particularly energy intensive. But the proposal still needs to be approved by member states as part of the process of implementing the law, known as ‘comitology’ in EU parlance.

    1) https://www.europeanvoice.com/article/imported/california-disputes-canadian-claims-on-tar-sands-emissions/72873.aspx