For some time now the Tories have been cosying up to the Stephen Harper government in Ottawa with a secret campaign of lobbying in favour of the Canadian Tar sands project.
The EU, aware of the heavy carbon footprint of Tar sands oil are proposing a 20% markup on carbon emissions from it (which is probably too low, many experts put it much higher) which given EU carbon reduction targets would make it very difficult to sell Tar sands oil in the EU. The Tories have taken Canada’s side in this dispute, no doubt more out of consideration for the bottom line of BP or Shell than anything else. This has now created this situation where the Canadians are sufficiently cocky about British backing to even threaten Europe with a full scale trade war over the issue.
As the Tories see it better to get our oil from those nice friendly Canadians than those nasty evil Arabs, right? Well no! As I discussed on Greenblog a while back, the Canadians have undertaken a pretty slick propaganda campaign to try and rebrand the Canadian Tar Sands from the messy realities of, as one critic put it “the greatest environmental crime of all time“. The reality is that the Tar sands are one of the most polluting forms of energy available, they cannot be produced at a sufficient rate to offset peak oil and must be considered unburnable from a climate change mitigation point of view.
And as for the claim that they are “better” by virtue of being Canadian, well there-in lie the problem. Much of the Tar Sands operations these days are owned by a variety of foreign multinationals from all over the world, Russia, China, the US, you name it. So its incorrect to assume that these foreign multinationals will somehow favour the UK over whoever paying the most cash when it comes to selling the oil (and in case you didn’t take the hint, that would be the Chinese!).
As this short video summarises, the Tar sands are simply more trouble than they are worth and the effort spent on them would be far better employed pursuing on other measures such as renewables, energy conservation or indeed exploration of existing conventional oil and gas fields.