Oil Sands Label Defended By EU Commission Despite Canada Criticism

The European Union's climate commissioner announced this week that the EU's plans to label all fuel produced from oil sands as "highly polluting" are based on science and talks will be held with EU member states to discuss the proposed standard, according to Reuters.

The EU plan has been criticized by Canada, which possesses large deposits of the fuel source. Despite Canadian fears that the label would cause economic damage, the EU maintains that their move is not political.

Reuters reports Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate commissioner, said in a press conference, "We have the knowledge and the fact that oil sands are more CO2-polluting than other kinds of fuel." She added that oil sands fuel is not being targeted specifically, but is being labelled using the same methodologies as other fuel sources.

Before this labeling is enacted, it must be approved by the European Parliament. It would become a part of the EU's Fuel Quality Directive, which is "a plan that aims to reduce carbon emissions from transportation by six per cent by 2020," reported HuffPost Canada.

Canadian natural resources minister Joe Oliver responded to the EU proposal recently, saying, "Any proposed implementing measure that provides separate, more onerous treatment for oil sands derived crude oil relative to other crude oils with similar or higher GHG emissions intensities is discriminatory, and potentially violates the European Union's international trade obligations."

Under pressure from Canada, EU members delayed voting this week on the measure that would list oil sands as more polluting than other fuel sources. The Guardian reports that environmentalists have accused the UK of "urging more consultation and research in order to delay the EU's taking a position."

Despite opposition from Estonia, in addition to the UK and Canada, the EU measure is likely to pass. Waldemar Skrobacki, an EU expert and associate professor at the University of Toronto, told The Calgary Herald, "The opposition is not big enough or strong enough to prevail."

U.S. President Barack Obama has yet to make a decision as to whether a Canadian company will be allowed to construct a 1,700-mile pipeline connecting Canada's oil sands to refineries in the U.S. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline has sparked national protests in the U.S. and a number of prominent individuals have spoken out against it.