By Chris Keenan
The European Union is known to have a lot of momentum in consumer and environmental movements. The countries have made efforts to help promote alternative energy and use more eco-friendly consumer practices. Today, the European Union is targeting banning the practice of tar sands.
The tar sand is a controversial practice in which low quality oil is drawn from sands that have a mixture of clays and other materials. The practice is very intensive on the environment for all the pollution it causes. Greenhouse gases are produced at a much higher rate from this than conventional methods such as drilling. It also consumes a lot of water to filter out the oil and is very difficult to mitigate when the water needs to be treated. Canada is the place where most of the tar sands come from in the Alberta area. Tar sands have been a source of outcry from environmental activists all over the globe. This same movement for banning tar sands also may help push out other controversial practices like those of shale gases.
The voice behind this movement, Connie Hedegaard, is the EU’s climate change commissioner. The commission she is involved in has decided to back a new order on fuel quality. This will set minimum environmental standards for a range of fuels, including tar sands, coal converted to liquid and oil from shale rock so that they are stricter on quality and environment. Hedegaard said: “With this measure, we are sending a clear signal to fossil fuels suppliers. As fossil fuels will be a reality in the foreseeable future, it’s important to give them the right value.”
Greenpeace was another active participant. The EU transport policy adviser, Franziska Achterberg expressed that it was a victory for the commission because of all the aggressive lobbying tactics of the fossil fuel companies.
The proposals have now been sent to EU member states, such as Germany, Italy and other major countries. Those countries will convene together in four to six weeks to vote on the proposal. It will then go to the European parliament for final approval.
If the proposed standards are accepted, they will get rid of the importation of tar sands, unless producers can change their methods to being much better on the environment and health. The proposition by the commission involves that tar sands are to be attributed a greenhouse gas value of 107 grams per megajoule of fuel in comparison to 87.5 grams per megajoule for regular oil. Producers will also have to cut the carbon footprint of their fuels by 6 percent in a few years.
Paul Morzzo, a Greenpeace representative, stated that the proposal is the best action. “The key question now is what will the UK government do – will it be, as David Cameron once claimed, the greenest government ever and support the ban or will the government adopt the George Osborne approach…where carbon emissions and the destruction of the environment seems to be a price worth paying.”
There is hope that there will be an agreement that will support the movement for tar sands and other fuels being banned in the EU and hopefully in the US in time. The proposal has made it through tough obstacles with opposition and lobbying and is appearing to be a success.