Joe Oliver takes oilsands fight to Europe's financial heart

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver brought new evidence against a plan to label Alberta's bitumen dirtier than other oil to the financial heart of Europe, telling energy executives in London a proposed Fuel Quality Directive is a "bad policy."

EU's bid to label Alberta bitumen dirty just 'bad policy,' minister tells executives

Joe Oliver brought new evidence against a plan to label Alberta's bitumen dirtier than other oil to the financial heart of Europe.

Canada's minister of natural resources told an audience of more than 125 energy executives at the Canada Europe Energy summit in London that the European Union's proposed Fuel Quality Directive is a "bad policy."

"As currently drafted, the FQD is unscientific, discriminatory, opaque and will discourage and harm the European refinery industry," he said.

For the past couple of years Canada has been fighting plans by the EU to bring in the directive as part of the EU's efforts to reduce emissions from transportation.

The FQD assigns values to three types of oil — bitumen, shale oil and conventional oil — based on emissions created during production.

The Canadian government disputes the value assigned to conventional oil, saying it's too low.

Oliver's department released a study last week by ICF International, a company that previously provided expert advice on energy to the European Commission. It looked at how Europe calculates the emissions from the oil it uses now and concluded the EU's math is wrong.

The report points out the EU assigned average values for oil now used in Europe.

But, it concludes, that average doesn't take into account that conventional oil has different emissions depending on where it comes from and how much flaring — or burning off of gas — occurs during production.

Oliver argues that makes conventional oil appear cleaner that it really is.

"This is basic energy science," Oliver said "But the FQD doesn't reflect it."

Oliver wants the EU to create a new system of values for conventional oil.

Concern over effect in U.S., too

Canada recently signed a free trade agreement with Europe and sees it as huge new customer for its petroleum. But a higher number attached to Canadian oil sands bitumen under the proposed Fuel Quality Directive would discourage EU members from using it.

Oliver warns the FQD could also give Alberta bitumen a black eye in the U.S.

The Obama administration is still mulling over a decision about the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

"It could stigmatize the oil from Canada and impact on our access to some markets, Oliver told reporters. "I don’t see a direct tie-in with Keystone but it clearly would not be helpful," he added.

As Oliver spoke protesters dressed in white hazmat suits outside London's Canada House unveiled a mock oil spill clean up. The work, by artist Lucy Sparrow, showed geese, seals and other wildlife made of felt covered in oil as workers "mopped" up the spill around them.

"Joe Oliver has just sort of revamped his campaign to water down the Fuel Quality Directive to try and stop progressive EU climate legislation," said Suzanne Dhaliwal from the UK Tar Sands Network.

"We wanted to bring this oil spill here today to show that animals are being destroyed, communities are being destroyed and ecosystems are being destroyed. And we wanted them to think about that when they go into these meetings today."