Europe a lost cause for feds, oil sands industry
Joe Oliver and company had best focus on the homefront (and maybe China)
The oil sands has an image problem. And if that wasn’t already apparent to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, it must be crystal clear now after he was given a rough ride while promoting the oil sands during a talk yesterday at the London School of Economics. Oliver has been in Europe this week lobbying the European Union (EU) to scrap its planned Fuel Quality Directive. This proposed policy would put a higher rating of carbon emissions on oil sands-derived fuels than other fuels.
I hope the federal government doesn’t plan on spending more taxpayer dollars on trips across the pond for this lost cause. While it would seem odd if the federal government didn’t put at least some effort into fighting a directive that could potentially crimp oil sands growth, the optics are bad here. Canada once again comes off as a climate change Neanderthal.
It also won’t work. The EU cares little about getting more oil sands on the world market. Natural gas and coal are the fossil fuels of choice for heating and power generation there. And the continent gets its oil from other locales, like North Africa, which is why EU members such as Italy have been so interested in the Arab Spring rebellions against dictators of oil-rich nations.
The federal government and its friends in the petroleum industry are better off focusing on North America when it comes to its oil sands lobbying efforts. The sector’s got plenty of problems on home soil. Oil sands proponents need to focus on improving the environmental performance of the sector and getting its message out to Canadians and Americans (note: Cenovus Energy’s recent TV ad campaign) so that the markets it already has aren’t closed off in the future.
They should also keep an eye on political developments in China. While it’s been long assumed that the factory of the world will take all the fossil fuels it get can get to power its economic growth, some energy observers aren’t so sure that’s the case anymore. Could Beijing’s appetite for not only coal but oil sands crude be curbed because of environmental concerns?
Politicians in Ottawa and Alberta might want to think about that before expending more energy and public money on trips to Europe. Maybe that’s why Alison Redford is sending Gary Mar to Hong Kong.