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Alberta ministers off the EU to head off anti oil sands FQD resolution

Fuel Quality Directive would see EU countries importing the bitumen subject to penalties.


EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Alison Redford is dispatching two senior ministers across the Atlantic on a barnstorming blitz to head off a proposed European Union resolution impacting the oil sands.

International Relations Minister Cal Dallas and Environment Minister Diana McQueen will visit European capitals from Sweden to Romania for a week beginning to talk to government members, influence-makers, and fence-sitters about their concerns over the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), first proposed two years ago.

“We support measures that would result in a lower carbon footprint,” said Dallas. “(But) this is a very high-profile initiative that could potentially be adopted in much the same format in other jurisdictions, so we want to make sure that we’ve done our part to have the discussion about ensuring that (sound) science is the basis of the implementing measures.”

The FQD would put a higher carbon footprint rating on oil coming from the oil sands as opposed to oil produced by more conventional methods.

If approved, the FQD would see European countries importing the bitumen be subject to penalties or forced to jump through so many bureaucratic and regulatory hoops it wouldn’t be worth the effort.

The EU environment ministers are expected to vote on the directive before the end of the year and, if approved, it would then go for ratification by the individual countries.
Both Alberta and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s federal government are challenging the EU’s scientific data, which pegs bitumen as 22% more greenhouse gas intensive than conventional oil.

The FQD would not directly harm Alberta in the short term, as it does not ship directly to Europe.

But it could have far-reaching implications, setting a precedent and lending weight to critics who say the complicated and intensive oilsands extraction process is not worth the extra greenhouse gas emissions it produces.

There is also the possibility that Alberta’s biggest oil customer, the US, could follow suit with a similar directive.

The FQD could also throw a wrench into key projects like the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which, if approved by US President Barack Obama, would ship Alberta oil sands bitumen to refineries on the Gulf Coast in Texas.

The FQD could raise questions about whether the Europeans would accept refined oil from the United US that originated from the oil sands.

Dallas said he and McQueen will emphasize Alberta’s efforts on environmental monitoring, greenhouse gas reduction, and investment in alternative energy technologies.
Dallas will travel to Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Lithuania, and Latvia. McQueen will head to France, Austria, Croatia, Greece, and Sweden.