Draft rules on implementing the EU's Fuel Quality Directive would allow imports of tar sand and other energy intensive oils to the EU, undermining greenhouse gas emission savings, environmentalists have warned.
The European Commission is currently drafting implementation measures for the Fuel Quality Directive to establish a methodology for calculating greenhouse gas emissions from fuel. The directive, adopted to complement the climate and energy package in December 2008, requires suppliers of petrol, diesel and gas oil used in road transport to reduce the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of fuel by 10% by 2020.
The latest draft shows that the EU executive is settling on a single greenhouse gas value for all oil-based transport fuels instead of separate values that were floated in earlier drafts.
But a coalition of green NGOs argued that this provision would contradict the purpose of the directive. They have written to EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard urging the Commission to provide a set of default values for crude oil that account for the different greenhouse gas intensities of crude types, including heavy crude like tar sands.
"In this form, the methodology would remove any incentive to clean up oil extraction and processing methods," the NGOs' letter reads.
The environmentalists are particularly concerned by the prospect of rising imports of tar sands, whose greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refining are three to five times' higher than conventional oil.
"European oil companies are already significantly increasing their tar sands portfolios through investments in Congo, Jordan, Madagascar, Nigeria, Russia and other countries. The Fuel Quality Directive is supposed to benefit the climate, but the latest proposal from the European Commission leaves the European market wide open for fuels produced from tar sands and undermines the whole purpose of the legislation," said Darek Urbaniak, extractive industries campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe.
The biofuels industry has also called for more stringent greenhouse gas values for oil. It argues that figures which do not reflect rising emissions from unconventional fuels would put biofuels at a disadvantage, as their required greenhouse gas savings are measured against emissions from fossil fuels (EURACTIV 19/03/10).