EU might not condemn tar sands oil as dirty: Canada

Tue Oct 18, 2011 3:30pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The European Union could yet reject a proposal to classify crude from Alberta's tar sands as dirty oil, the Canadian energy minister Joe Oliver said on Tuesday, a move which would potentially boost Canada's hopes of becoming a key global energy supplier.

As part of a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the EU's executive commission wants to single out crude from the enormous northern Alberta oil sands as being particularly energy-intensive to produce.

Canada's Conservative government fears this could limit the future market for tar sands crude and blur the message that Canada is, in Oliver's words, a reliable energy superpower which will develop the sands in a socially responsible way.

Speaking to Reuters in an interview, Oliver insisted that a move to single out oil sands crude made no sense from a scientific point of view and would concern European firms who have invested heavily in the industry.

"We definitely don't think we've lost ... there's a good chance because we believe science is on our side," he said shortly before flying to Europe to press home the Canadian government's message. "This is far from over."

The EU proposal to place tar sands oil on its fuel quality directive must be approved by separate votes of European officials and by lawmakers before it comes into force.

"We're not exporting oil sands oil to Europe but we don't want the potential stigmatization and we're quite concerned about that issue," said Oliver.

The tar sands contain more than 170 billion barrels of recoverable oil and are the world's third-largest crude reserve behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.   Continued...