EU spares Canadian oil sands the ‘dirty fuel’ label

EU spares Canadian oil sands the ‘dirty fuel’ label

Oil sands in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

The European Union voted by a extremely narrow majority Wednesday against a proposed fuel quality directive that would have stigmatized as "dirty" all imports coming from Canadian oil producers, and which Ottawa has been fighting for over two years.

The rule, passed by a difference of just 12 votes, 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 told CP after the vote.

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

Geoff Regan, MP for Halifax West and Liberal Critic for Natural Resources, was not nearly as positive about the news. "The fact today’s vote even happened is the direct result of this Prime Minister’s failure to champion strong environmental policies that will ensure we get our resources to European and international markets," he told MINING.com.

The vote of the full plenary was prompted earlier this month when the European Parliament's environment committee utterly rejected a deal allowing oil producers to report an average carbon rating of their oil stock, instead of singling out oil sands content.

Canada and representatives of the oil industry have said unconventional oil has a valuable role in diversifying EU supplies and that Canada’s huge deposits of oil sands, being developed by oil majors such as Exxon Mobil Corp., BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, were being unfairly singled out by the original EU plan.

Today’s decision opens up the European market to Canadian oil sands producers.