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Europe and the tar sands

There’s been a lot of talk about the Alberta tar/oil sands of late (and deservedly so). Hollywood director James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic) recently paid a visit to the Athabasca region to witness the devastation for himself – and to talk with various political and petroleum industry leaders. [Aside: could the Ed Stalmach government of Alberta be any friendlier to the oil industry in Alberta? It’s as if they speak with one voice. Governments surely want to create a business friendly environment but isn’t it also their responsibility to ensure that human health and the environment are protected?]

Following his visit, Cameron, who is Canadian, ended up saying the oil/tar sands will become a curse for Canada without science-based regulations. His visit followed on the heels of other high-profile visits from the likes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Lindsey Graham. Graham was so enamored with the beauty of open pit oil mines and devastated landscapes, he has since gone on to introduce a pro-Alberta oil sands bill in the U.S. Senate that would ensure unrestricted flow to United States.

Meanwhile, European Union MPs in Brussels have been debating a motion to classify the oil sands as a high-emissions fuel in the EU’s fuel quality directive that promotes use of greener energy. Not surprisingly, the Canadian government, in yet another nod to the beloved petroleum industry, is challenging the EU ruling in the World Trade Organization.

The EU vote has been put on hold for the time being but one thing is for sure: the issue of what to do about Canada’s tar sands is heating up as both sides become more and more entrenched. We surely haven’t heard the end of this story.

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