Nobel laureates demand European Commission action to classify oil from tar sands as very high carbon

Twenty-one Nobel prize winners, many of whom have won Nobel Peace Prizes, have urged the EU to immediately implement the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) which would label tar sands as higher carbon (“dirtier”) than other fuels. The Nobel laureates say the extraction of unconventional fuels – such as oil sands and oil shale – is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change. The powerful letter has attempted to restart the discussion about how tar sands and oil shale should be treated in the EU, a discussion that has been delayed for too long, following a massive lobbying campaign by Canada, the US and the global oil industry. Conventional oil has been given a value of 87.5g of CO2 equivalent per megajoule. In comparison, tar sands oil has a value of 107g, oil shale 131g and coal-to-liquid 172g.  The laureates quote IEA warnings that unconventional fuel sources are especially damaging to the environment and climate, and its calculation that two-thirds of known fossil-fuel reserves must be left in the ground ‘to avoid catastrophic climate change’. The letter says the time for positive action is now. The EU can demonstrate clear and unambiguous leadership on this.
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Nobel laureates demand European Commission action on tar sands

October 28, 2013   (Transport & Environment)

Twenty-one Nobel prize winners have urged the EU to immediately implement the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) which would label tar sands as dirtier than other fuels.

“The extraction of unconventional fuels – such as oil sands and oil shale – is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change,” wrote the laureates in a letter to European commissioners and environment ministers earlier this month.

The powerful letter [copied below] has attempted to restart the discussion about how tar sands and oil shale should be treated in the EU, a discussion that has been stalled following a massive lobbying campaign by Canada, the US and the global oil industry. The lobbyists want to stop the EU valuing fuels from unconventional oil sources differently from those made from conventional crude oil.
The FQD was adopted in 2009 and sets a target of a 6% reduction in the carbon intensity of fuels used for transport by 2020.
To achieve that, it has to set values for CO2 emissions from different fuel production processes. Conventional oil has been given a value of 87.5g of CO2 equivalent per megajoule.
Following an assessment of the production process of unconventional fuels, tar sands oil has a value of 107g, oil shale 131g and coal-to-liquid 172g.   [ Euractiv link 5.10.2011 ]  Yet a Commission proposal on how to implement the FQD has been delayed because of lobbying. 
The laureates quote International Energy Agency warnings that unconventional fuel sources are especially damaging to the environment and climate, and its calculation that two-thirds of known fossil-fuel reserves must be left in the ground ‘to avoid catastrophic climate change’.
Their letter adds: ‘The time for positive action is now. The European Union can demonstrate clear and unambiguous leadership by upholding its climate principles.’
An unpublished impact assessment prepared for the Commission is believed to say applying higher values to unconventional fuels would have only a tiny effect on the fuel prices paid by motorists. The European news agency EurActiv quoted an unnamed Commission official as saying that ‘pump price impacts for all production methods are roughly the same at substantially less than one cent per litre’.
T&E clean fuels manager Nusa Urbancic said: “There isn’t much fuel from unconventional sources in Europe at present, but the battle is over what signal the EU sends to the world about how the climate impact of a fuel’s production process will be assessed. Canada is lobbying so hard, because it wants key oil markets like Europe to keep ignoring that the production of tar sands is essentially dirtier than conventional fuels. If Europe is serious about decarbonising its transport energy, it shouldn’t listen to the siren voices on the other side of the pond.”
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Letter to EU Commissioners and Environment Ministers re EU climate legislation and unconventional fossil fuels

The world can no longer ignore, except at our own peril, that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing life on this planet today. The impacts of climate change and extreme resource extraction are exacerbating conflicts and environmental destruction around the world.   The extraction of unconventional fuels—such as oil sands and oil shale—is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change.

For this reason, we are writing to urge you to support the immediate implementation of the European Union’s (EU) Fuel Quality Directive in order to fulfill its 6% reduction target in greenhouse gas emissions from fuels used for transportation by 2020. We have no doubt that the Directive must be applied fairly to unconventional fuels to ensure their climate impacts are fully taken into account.  It follows that the fuel-producing companies should report their climate emissions and be held responsible for any emissions increase.

We welcome the EU’s scientific analysis—as it is now proposed for the implementation of the EU Directive—that the extraction and production of fuels from unconventional sources fuels including oil sands, coal-to-liquid, and oil shale leads to higher emissions and that this should be reflected in the regulations.

The International Energy Agency  (IEA) is warning that unconventional fuel sources are especially damaging to the environment and climate, and is concerned that these fuel sources are now increasingly competing on a par with conventional fuel sources.  In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, the IEA calculates that two thirds of known fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground.

Now is the time to transition swiftly away from fossil fuels, with a special focus on those that pollute the most. We must all move toward a future built on safe, clean and renewable energy.  Fully implementing the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive will send a clear signal that the European Union is committed to action that supports the rights of future generations to a healthy planet.

It is not too late to avert our actions that only amount to palliative care for a dying planet. The time for positive action is now.  The European Union can demonstrate clear and unambiguous leadership by upholding its climate principles.  We look forward to working together as we move forward to confront this frightening challenge to our global survival.

 

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize, 1976, Ireland

Roger Guillemin, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1977, France

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize 1980, Argentina

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize 1984, South Africa

Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Prize, 1992, Guatemala

Richard Roberts, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1993, United Kingdom

Paul Crutzen, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1995, Netherlands

Harold Kroto, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1996, United Kingdom

José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize, 1996, East Timor

John Walker, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1997, UK

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1997, USA

John Hume, Nobel Peace Prize, 1998, Ireland

Paul Greengard, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2000, USA

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize, 2003, Iran

Gerhard Ertl, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2007, Germany

Mark Jaccard, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Nobel Peace Prize, 2007, Canada

John Stone, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Nobel Peace Prize, 2007, Canada

Martin Chalfie, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2008, USA

Thomas Steitz, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2009, USA

Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize, 2011, Liberia

Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize, 2011, Yemen

http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/2013/10/nobel-peace-and-science-laureates-calling-for-eu-action-on-tar-sands/?ref=204

The Nobel Women’s Initiative was established in 2006, and is led by Nobel Peace laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman and Mairead Maguire. The Nobel Women’s Initiative uses the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize and of courageous women peace laureates to magnify the power and visibility of women working in countries around the world for peace, justice and equality.
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Earlier

UK signals support for EU import of Canadian tar sands oil

Leaked papers show UK rejects proposal to classify oil from tar sands as highly polluting, a label that would deter EU countries from importing it


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 see earlier

European Commission recognises climate impact of unconventional oils

26.10.2011

The EU is committed to cutting the CO2 impact of fuel production by 6% by 2020
from 2010 level. So it has to set “values” for each fuel, on the carbon intensity
of the extraction process. Conventional fuels have a value of 87.5 gCO2/ MJ of
energy. Fierce lobbying from Alberta, which has huge tar sands reserves, led to
a delay in setting a tar sand oil standard.. The EU plans to give oil from tar
sands a value of 107g CO2/MJ and oil from shale 131.5 g. To be decided in December.
UK is one country to oppose the higher tar sand level. 

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=4647

 

Commission recognises climate impact of unconventional oil in fuel quality directive

26.10.2011 (Transport & Environment)

Petrol and diesel made from tar sands, coal, gas and oil shale will be assigned
a different carbon footprint than fuels from conventional oil, if a proposal from
the Commission is supported by EU member states. After years of lobbying by Canada
and some sections of the oil industry, the Commission has stuck to its original
plan to assign different values to fuels dependent on their source. The values
are needed as part of EU efforts to reduce the climate impact of fuel production
by 6% by 2020.

Article 7a of the Fuel Quality Directive, proposed in 2008 and agreed a year
later, sets the target of a 6% reduction in climate-changing emissions from the
fuel production process by 2020, based on the level in 2010. In order to achieve
that, it has to set ‘values’ for each fuel depending on the carbon intensity of
the extraction process. Conventional fuels produced from crude oil have a value
of 87.5 grams of carbon per megajoule of energy.

Most other fuels had been given their value by the end of last year, but fierce
lobbying from oil interests in the Canadian state of Alberta, which has huge tar
sands reserves, led to a delay in setting a standard for that source. Very little
oil from these sources is currently used in Europe, but Alberta was worried that
a high-emissions value from the EU would set a precedent that would reduce the
market for its oil in the future.

At one stage the Commission was considering giving oil from tar sands the same
value as conventional fuels, but following loud protests from MEPs, NGOs and private
citizens, it has now reverted to its original plan. It will therefore assign oil
from tar sands a value of 107g CO2/MJ and oil from shale 131.5g CO2/MJ.

T&E director Jos Dings said: ‘This move sends a signal to the oil industry
that dirty fuels should either clean up or stay away. In particular, the climate
commissioner Connie Hedegaard should be applauded for not backing down in the
face of huge pressure from Canada and the oil industry. It’s now up to member
states to give this proposal the green light, and thereby give producers a real
incentive to invest in cleaner technologies and stop dirty habits such as flaring.’

http://www.transportenvironment.org/News/2011/10/Commission-recognises-climate-impact-of-unconventional-oil-in-fuel-quality-directive/

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See also

German research institute pulls out of Canadian tar sands project

 19.3.2013  (Euractiv)

“A 2011 report commissioned by the EU from Adam Brandt, an Assistant Professor at Stanford University, found that the lifecycle emissions of fuel from tar sands – also known as oil sands – were between 12-40% higher than conventional crude, with the most likely barrel being 22% more carbon intensive.

“Brandt wrote that tar sands were “significantly different enough from conventional oil emissions that regulatory frameworks should address this discrepancy with pathway-specific emissions factors that distinguish between oil sands and conventional oil processes.”  ”

http://www.euractiv.com/science-policymaking/german-research-institute-pulls-news-518608