The fight over a proposed European Union rule that would penalize fuel derived from Alberta’s oilsands was dumped in the laps of European politicians Thursday after a technical committee failed to reach a conclusive stance.
Environmentalists said that improves the plan’s chances of making it into law, while Canadian government and industry officials said the vote results tell them which politicians they need to convince to finally defeat it.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford, whose government has lobbied hard against the measure, said the vote breakdown gives the province valuable information on which countries agree with its message and which ones still have questions.
“There will be politicians that have concerns, that will be looking for very particular information,” she said. “And we’re going to take the time to make sure that we’re having those detailed discussions.
“It will be a continuation but also a concentration of our efforts.”
Keith Stewart of Greenpeace said Thursday’s vote was good news.
“If we were going to lose it, we would expect to lose it at a committee of faceless technocrats rather than when government ministers have to own the decision. If they want to stand up and say they sided with Shell and BP instead of the climate, then that’s going to be a pretty uncomfortable position to take in Europe.”
The EU’s Fuel Quality Directive classifies feedstocks used to create transportation fuel by the amount of greenhouse gas they create. It has only two classifications for oil: conventional crude and natural bitumen, which would include the oilsands.
The classifications would be used to encourage greater use of low-carbon feedstocks.
An EU committee voted 128-89 against the directive. There were 128 abstentions. The committee needed 255 votes to either approve or reject the proposal.
The abstainers included Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Holland. The last three are all home to energy multinationals with major interests in the oilsands.
The proposal now goes to the Council of Europe, which is a ministerial-level group of politicians from the EU’s 27 member countries. The council is expected to rule on the issue in June.
The Canadian government and industry say the problem with the proposal is that it puts some fuel feedstocks in the same low-carbon category as conventional oil even though their greenhouse gas emissions are similar to oilsands feedstocks.
“The reality is the emissions are very similar to Russian and Nigerian heavy crude and obviously we’re going to continue to promote Canadian interests,” said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird from London, England.
They have a point, said Dan Woynillowicz of the Pembina Institute. “Some legitimate issues have been raised,” he said.