EU and the Climate Change: Ready for Oil Tar Sands?

Written by | Friday, November 27th, 2015

According to the research conducted by petroleum refining consultants MathPro, more than 75 percent of European oil refineries now have the necessary equipment to process tar sands which has in turn given a rise to concerns whether the EU is ready to absorb a flood of imports of one of the least-environmentally friendly fuels in production. The controversial finding comes only a few weeks prior to the UN Climate Change Conference that will take place in Paris, aiming to strike a deal to cap global warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

This month, US President Barack Obama also ditched the Keystone XL pipeline that was supposed to carry Canadian tar sands oil across the US, saying that the project would have a major impact on the environment and climate change. Tar sands oil is responsible for three to four times more global-warming emissions than conventional crude oil. Tar sands oil is not manufactured in Europe but it is in other countries, such as Venezuela or Canada. The US refines and subsequently exports Canadian tar sands to Europe, often blended with domestic fuel.

According to Laura Buffet, fuels policy officer at Transport & Environment, “days before the opening of global climate negotiations in Paris, it is clear that Europe has the capability to process these climate-killing fuels while the EU does nothing to stop them entering Europe”. However, unlimited tar sands imports to the EU would have the same environmental impact as having an extra six million cars on the road, research found last year. European Union policymakers missed their chance to discourage tar sands imports by imposing a penalty on their use in road transport fuels. In 2014, the European Commission ditched an obligatory requirement in its draft Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) to label tar sands oil as heavy pollutants.

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