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Canada revs up for fight over second tar sands oil pipeline

Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Fort St. James, Canada — The prime minister is talking about being “held hostage” by U.S. interests. Radio ads blare, “Stand up to this foreign bully.” A Twitter account tells of a “secret plan to target Canada: exposed!”

Could this be Canada? The cheerful northern neighbor: supplier of troops to unpleasant U.S.-led foreign conflicts, reliable trade partner, ally in holding terrorism back from North America’s shores, not to mention the No. 1 supplier of America’s oil?…

Canada’s recent push for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta to the nation’s West Coast, where it would be sent to China, has been marked by uncharacteristic defiance. And it first flared in the brouhaha over the bananas…

“Canada is not what it used to be,” said Todd Paglia, executive director ForestEthics, an environmental group that has been calling for the international boycotts on tar sands oil. “It’s hard to believe, but it’s tilting toward becoming more of an authoritarian petro state, positioning itself as a resource colony for China.”

On the other side, a lobbying group pushing Canada as an alternative to unstable and sometimes unsavory oil producers in the Middle East ramped up a boycott of its own, this one targeting Chiquita bananas…
(19 February 2012)
See related report The Northern Gateway Pipeline: An Affront to the Public Interest and Long Term Energy Security of Canadians by PCI Fellow David Hughes

EU tar sands pollution vote ends in deadlock

Damian Carrington, The Guardian
The European Union failed to label oil produced from tar sands as highly polluting on Thursday, with a key vote by member states ending in deadlock.

The issue is seen as a key test of the EU’s ability to implement its climate change policies while under heavy pressure from the Canadian government and oil companies who want to prevent billions of barrels of tar sands oil from being designated as especially harmful to the environment. The lobbying has been intense, with Canada secretly threatening a trade war with Europe if the proposal is passed, while the Nasa climate scientist James Hansen has said full development of the tar sands would mean it was “game over” for the climate.

Darek Urbaniak at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “Some European governments have given in to Canadian and oil lobby pressure, instead of saying no to climate-hostile tar sands. High-polluting sources of fuels, such as tar sands, must be cleaned up or kept out of Europe – they are the dirtiest source of transport fuels, and will undermine Europe’s ability to reach its climate ambitions.”

Joe Oliver, Canada’s minister of natural resources, said he was pleased with the result and warned: “If the EU moves ahead in implementing these discriminatory measures, Canada will not hesitate to defend its interests.” He said Canada would continue to promote the oil sands as a “secure and responsible” source of energy.

The vote by officials needed a majority of about three-quarters to be approved, which would have led to the proposal passing quickly into law. In the event, there were 89 votes for the proposal, 128 against and 128 abstentions, including the UK. The impasse means the decision will be referred to ministers, who will send a proposal to the European parliament for passing into law. The decision should have been made more than a year ago…
(23 February 2012)

Canada threatens EU over tar sands

Canada is threatening trade retaliation if the EU tries to tighten regulations on oil from its highly polluting tar sands in a Fuel Quality Directive, according to documents seen by EurActiv.

The papers emerged after a freedom of information request to see EU documents related to tar sands – also known as oil sands – was lodged by Transport and Environment, an environmental organisation.

But the documents were only released in heavily censored form by the EU Ombudsman P. Nikiforos Diamandouros because full disclosure “would seriously affect the current trade negotiations and Canada’s relations with the EU,” Diamandouros said in a statement.

Negotiations between Ottawa and Brussels on an EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement worth as much as $20 billion have been ongoing since 2009.

The Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht has described them as the EU’s “most ambitious [free trade negotiations] so far.”

But one EU ‘steering brief’ about a June 2010 meeting between the Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and Isabelle Muller, secretary-general of the oil refining association Europia, revealed how the two issues had become intertwined.

“Canada has been lobbying the Commission and Member States intensively to avoid a separate default value for fuel derived from tar sands,” the document says. “It has raised the issue in the context of EU-Canada negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement.”…
(20 February 2012)

Cut all fossil-fuel use: scientists

Mike DeSouza, The Montreal Gazette
Two Canadian climate-change scientists from the University of Victoria say the public reaction to their recently published commentary has missed their key message: that all forms of fossil fuels, including the oilsands and coal, must be regulated for the world to avoid dangerous global warming.

“Much of the way this has been reported is (through) a type of view that oilsands are good and coal is bad,” said climate scientist Neil Swart, who co-wrote the study with fellow climatologist Andrew Weaver.

“From my perspective, that was not the point … The point here is, we need a rapid transition to renewable (energy), and avoid committing to longterm fossil fuel use.”

The commentary, published in the British scientific journal, Nature Climate Change, estimated the impact of consuming the fuel from oilsands deposits – without factoring in greenhouse gas emissions associated with extraction and production – would be far less harmful to the planet’s atmosphere than consuming all of the world’s coal resources.

“The conclusions of a credible climate scientist with access to good data are very different than some of the rhetoric we’ve heard from Hollywood celebrities of late,” said Travis Davies, a spokesperson from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers…
(22 February 2012)
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