Oil sands, known also as tar sands, represent a combination of clay, sand, water and bitumen, a heavy black viscous oil. Tar sands can be mined and processed to extract the oil-rich bitumen, which is then refined into oil. Tar sands extraction is a very polluting business for the climate, which is contaminating rivers, lacing the air with toxins and turning forests into wasteland.
Tar sands was a subject of dispute for green campaigners for many years, as this controversial fuel, which gained tradition mainly in Canada, known as a major producer of oil extracted from sands in Alberta, is considered to emit 23% more carbon emissions than conventional oil sources.
The EU is negotiating a Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) with the aim of encouraging the use of low carbon transport fuels and discouraging the use of high-emission crude oil, as it aims to reduce Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions from road transport by 6% before 2020.
Once the proposal is formally presented by the Commission, EU lawmakers and government representatives are expected to vote on it in the coming months.
Additionally, the European Commission will propose that oil sands should be attributed a default greenhouse gas value of 107 grams of carbon per megajoule, proving buyers it had a greater climate impact that conventional crude oil, whose value is 87.5 grams.
Over the time, the Canadian government has been lobbying hard to prevent the EU discriminating between conventional oil and tar sands, intending a set of legal challenges for unfair discrimination under CETA and the WTO.
In the meantime, the decision of the EU Commission regarding a new Directive on Fuel Quality to be implemented, could set minimum environmental standards for various fuels, along with tar sands, coal transformed into liquid and oil from shale rock.
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