Bureaucrats found flaws in oilsands study for European Parliament: Memos

By Mike De Souza, Postmedia News July 20, 2012

OTTAWA — Energy policy advisers at Natural Resources Canada who worked closely with an oil and gas lobby group advised the federal government that there were “numerous flaws” in a scientific study used by the European Union to justify climate change policies that would single out fossil fuels from Alberta’s oilpatch, internal government memos obtained by Postmedia News have revealed.The critique of the study by Stanford University Engineering professor Adam Brandt questioned his use of Canadian government methodology to estimate the global warming footprint of heavy oil from Alberta’s oilsands region, while he used what they believed were less stringent criteria to evaluate other fossil fuels.

“This study was finally released in January 2011 and argued that Canadian oilsands crude created 23 per cent more GHGs (greenhouse gases) than other fuels consumed in the EU and should be treated differently,” said a March 10, 2011, memo sent to former natural resources minister Christian Paradis from deputy minister Serge Dupont. “Canada believes the study has serious scientific and methodological flaws and will be passing on formal comments to the EU shortly.”

The memo, marked secret but declassified prior to release through access to information legislation, noted that the European Union commissioned the study after being pressured by lobbying from Canada to change its fuel quality directive (FQD).

“NRCan has been working with Canada’s mission in EU member states to engage in sustained advocacy opposing the discriminatory treatment of oilsands in an FQD policy, insisting on sound science and transparent tracking and traceability for all EU oil suppliers (e.g., Nigeria and Russia), not just Canada,” said the memo.

Marc Huot, an oilsands policy analyst at the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based environmental policy research group, acknowledged that some aspects of the EU policy need to be improved to better assess the footprint of all sources of fuels, but he suggested that the Canadian government’s lobbying efforts could completely derail the European climate change plan to reduce pollution from transportation fuels.

“There might be other ways of doing the same thing, but we don’t want to see the baby being thrown out with the bath water, so to speak,” said Huot.

A March 16 memo sent to the deputy minister, Dupont, also recommended additional arguments to be sent through Canada’s European ambassador, noting an absence of information in the Brandt study on some current sources of European fuels.

A spokesman for Natural Resources Canada, Paul Duchesne, explained that the Brandt study examined the difference between the footprints of oilsands crude and other fuels consumed in Europe, but it didn’t provide evidence supporting its proposal to put bitumen, the heavy oil from Alberta and other parts of the world, in a separate category from other crude oil.

“Heavy crude is heavy crude, and the GHG intensity of the oilsands (a heavy crude) is comparable to many other heavy crudes, some of which are currently imported into the EU,” said Duchesne.

One of the contacts on the memos, Paul Khanna, a Natural Resources Canada oilsands policy adviser, was also prominently featured in previously released internal emails exchanged with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, an industry lobby group.

Those exchanges, reported by Postmedia News in April, revealed that the lobby group had asked Khanna to remove pictures of oilsands surface mining from a promotional oilsands brochure to be distributed by the government at a global economic summit in 2009, recommending that he use a list of “proposed common shared facts” along with an “aesthetic” picture to use in the marketing material.

Previously released internal documents from Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada and the Privy Council Office all acknowledge that oilsands producers need large amounts of energy and water to extract heavy oil from Alberta’s natural bitumen deposits. As a result, the government departments say the sector is the fastest growing source of global warming pollution in Canada and also needs better monitoring to address water contamination concerns, along with other potential damage to land and endangered species.

European officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the memos, but they have said that they have faced significant lobbying from Canadian government officials and are still reviewing the fuel quality directive.

Brandt was not immediately available to comment.

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Original source article: Bureaucrats found flaws in oilsands study for European Parliament: Memos