Oil sands exporters narrowly survive EU vote

Parliament rejects the new fuel quality directive 337-325.

OTTAWA — Canadian oil sands exporters narrowly survived a vote today in the European Parliament that could have once again labelled Alberta bitumen as dirty oil.

A proposed fuel quality directive for European Union refineries has been the subject of a well-funded Canadian lobbying campaign for more than two years.

Canadian negotiators thought the matter was settled this fall when the European Commission backed off and agreed to allow Canadian bitumen without singling it out as having a much more intense carbon footprint.

However, the European Parliament’s environment committee flatly rejected the proposal earlier this month, forcing today’s vote.

More elected parliamentarians actually voted to reject the new fuel quality directive than accept it – 337-325 – however, with 48 abstentions, their numbers fell short of the 376 votes required for an absolute majority to overturn the proposed deal.

The fuel quality directive, as written, will now go to a ratification vote early in 2015.

“Our government will continue advocating for Canadian interests and Canadian jobs,” Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford said in a release after the vote.

“We are encouraged the European Parliament relied on science and the facts in making this decision.”

The EU’s fuel quality directive, or FQD, has been the subject of intense lobbying since early 2012, when it was proposed that Canadian bitumen be rated 22 per cent more carbon-intensive than conventional oil.

Under European emissions rules that dirty oil designation would make Canadian oil sands imports problematic for Europe’s refineries.

The Conservative government allocated $30 million last year to pay for two years of international advocacy and advertising on behalf of Canadian oil and gas producers and mining interests.

This fall, the first shiploads of Canadian bitumen began arriving in Europe, exports the industry and the Canadian government hope to accelerate with TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Energy East pipeline from Alberta to the Atlantic coast.

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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