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London protest aims to slam brakes on oil-sands fuel

Protest set to take place outside the Canadian High Commission in London on 18 June

ANTI-OIL-sands activists will take to London’s streets tomorrow in a bid to pressure the UK government to include fuel derived from Canadian bitumen in the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive (FQD). The demonstration, scheduled for 12pm on 18 June, will take place outside the Canadian High Commission in London.

Pete Barker, the UK organiser for International Stop the Tar Sands Day, said the campaign hopes to stop Europe importing crude derived from oil sands. “Canada is using aggressive lobbying techniques to push tar sands onto foreign markets,” he said. “We have to show the Canadian government that the global community believes exploiting the tar sands is unacceptable.”

The FQD, which sets quotas for greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions reductions for transport fuels throughout their lifecycle (production, transport and use), was amended in 2007 to require oil companies to cut emissions by 1% a year between 2011 and 2020.

To measure these GHG emissions reductions, the EU decided to assign carbon values to oil that reflect pollution caused during production. To implement the regulation the European Commission, the administrative body that runs the EU, is setting carbon values for various fuels, including those from the oil sands.

Canadian lobbying

The EU is considering whether to place all types of oil under one carbon value, or to give a separate value to the oil sands. A report published by the Commission at the beginning of February claimed production from the oil sands is 23% more carbon intensive than conventional oil. But the Commission recently decided to remove this reference – a move environmentalists claim came after lobbying by the Canadian government.

Environmentalists further claim that if, under the FQD, fuel derived from Canada’s bitumen deposits is categorised separately from conventional oil, it would demolish industry attempts – within the EU, at least – to establish the oil sands are a benign source of transport fuel.

Anti-oil sands activists cite concerns over water pollution and GHG emissions as reasons for their opposition. The London protesters also plan to deliver flowers to the Canadian High Commission, to symbolise communities, wildlife, and landscapes that they claim have been damaged by oil-sands operations.

With reserves of 2 trillion barrels, according to International Energy Agency figures, Canada’s oil sands host the equivalent of the world’s total recoverable conventional oil resources. And output is expected to ramp up. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers predicts oil-sands production will soar to 3.5 million barrels a day (b/d) in 2025, up from 1.5 million b/d in 2010.

No crude produced from the oil sands is exported to Europe. But several Europe-based companies, such as Statoil, Shell, Total and BP, are involved in the play.

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