CALGARY — New European Union fuel standards unfairly single out Canadian crude imports, a Canadian energy industry group said Monday.
“We’re more than willing to play on a level playing field. What we’ve seen in Europe is more of a gratuitous shot at oilsands specifically,” said Travis Davies, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
The EU has an initiative underway to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels over the next decade, which would entail ranking various sources of oil according to their carbon footprint.
A preliminary weighting pegs the carbon emissions from oilsands crude as being significantly higher than that of other sources.
A Reuters report out of Brussels on Monday said Canadian officials have sent a letter to EU commissioners for trade, energy and environment on the issue.
An official with Canada’s department of natural resources is quoted as calling the EU fuel policy discriminatory and a Canadian trade official warns against creating unnecessary trade barriers.
The article raises the spectre of a dispute before the World Trade Organization. Trade Minister Peter Van Loan has said the oilsands issue is being discussed separately from free trade talks.
Officials with the Department of International Trade declined to comment on Monday, while the Department of Natural Resources did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A spokesman for the European climate commissioner said it’s too soon to comment on the dispute, and a spokeswoman for the EU trade commissioner declined to comment on the leaked letter.
Canada is not a major supplier to Europe, which gets much of its imported oil from the Middle East.
As such, the EU rules aren’t going to have a major impact on how much oil Canada can sell into the global marketplace, said University of Alberta professor Andrew Leach.
Rather, he said, it’s a matter of “optics.”
“To have a region like the European Union come out and specifically target or emphasize oilsands as a high-carbon fuel, as an unsustainable fuel, then that puts a lot of pressure here domestically,” he said.
“The risk is probably more how it will resonate with Canadians and to a lesser degree with Americans, than the issue of really blocking any meaningful movement of Canadian exports.”