European commission under fire over fuel quality directive

8th October 2014

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Kenichi Gomi

Campaigners have reacted furiously to a decision by the European commission not to discriminate against oil from tar sands used as transport fuel.

The commission yesterday adopted a proposal to implement part of the Fuel Quality Directive. Article 7A of the Directive obliges suppliers to reduce by 6% the lifecycle greenhouse-gas intensity of fuel supplied for road vehicles by 2020.

An earlier proposal which would have pushed suppliers to use less oil from tar sands was rejected by the European council in 2012.

The new proposal establishes a method for calculating the carbon intensity for different fuel types; petrol, diesel, liquefied petroleum gas and compressed natural gas. Each of these fuel types will be assigned a default value based on emissions produced over their entire lifecycle.

Suppliers will have to use these values when reporting the carbon intensity of their fuel supply to member states.

However, oil from tar sands will not be differentiated from conventional oil, despite the fact that it is responsible for three to five time more climate changing emissions. Most tar sands oil comes from Canada.

EU climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard said: “Finally the commission can present this proposal to improve the climate impact of our transport fuels. It is no secret that our initial proposal could not go through due to resistance faced in some member states.”

She also Tweeted: “On the #FQD #tarsands proposal: please remember @EU_Commission tried a tougher approach but council rejected. Still we try once again... weaker? Yes, unfortunately it had to be or we would have ended with a new no. But better than nothing. And a start.”

Liberal Democrat MEP and environmentalist columnist Catherine Bearder said she was “horrified” by the proposals. Oil from tar sands is bad for the climate, but also for the local environment around extraction sites, she said.

The proposal will have to be voted on by the European council within the next two months.

“I want Ed Davey to get enough support to block this at council. That’s where we need to mobilise support,” Bearder said.

Colin Roche, extractives campaigner with Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “The commission has recognised the highly polluting nature of tar sands, but is going to let this climate killer be used by European oil companies with no penalty at all.

“The commission has clearly seen the problem but – under heavy pressure from the oil industry and the Canadian and US government – chosen not to act on it,” he said.

Nusa Urbancic, fuels programme manager at campaign group Transport and Environment, said: “Excusing the oil industry from carbon reduction efforts is unfair, inefficient, and costly as well.”

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