Tar sands oil veto attempt fails in European parliamentary vote

Canadian energy companies and the government cheered with joy while green campaigners expressed their dismay after an attempt by a number lawmakers failed to get a veto of tar sands oil imports approved in the European Parliament. For Canada, it means a green light (or lack of a red light) for greater oil exports to the EU.

After years of intense lobbying, Canada has succeeded in getting the European Commission to abandon the idea of classing tar sands oil as dirtier than other oils.

Tar sands oil produces more carbon than other oils because it requires more energy for extraction from bituminous deposits. However, a parliamentary committee vetoed the plan as it tried to get oil branded “dirty” and forced a vote on the matter

On Wednesday, in a plenary session of the European Parliament, the veto was put to a vote. A total of 376 votes were required to prevent the European Commission from putting its plan through – it only got 337 in favor, 325 against, and 48 abstentions. The veto-backers’ numbers fell short.

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

Greg Rickford

After the vote, Greg Rickford, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister, said: “Our government will continue advocating for Canadian interests and Canadian jobs. We are encouraged the European Parliament relied on science and the facts in making this decision.”

Canada’s Conservative government assigned $30 million in 2013 to pay for two years’ worth of international lobbying and advertising on behalf of the country’s oil & gas producers and mining companies.

In the autumn of this year, the first shipments of Canadian bitumen started arriving in Europe. When the TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Energy East pipeline from Alberta to the east coast is completed, Canada expects shipments to increase significantly.

The Canadian government and representatives from the oil industry said tar sands oil was being unfairly picked on by the original EU plan. They emphasized how important it was for the EU to diversify its fuel supplies, and pointed out that many European companies were operating in Canada, including royal Dutch Shell plc and BP plc.