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Tories consider emissions breaks for oil and gas

Finally caught in an "untruth" about giving the tar sands a special break after all, Canada's Conservative government is in full damage control mode at the worst possible time -- on the world stage at an international climate conference.

Remember those denials about special treatment for the tar sands some months ago? Well, turns out that the federal government in fact meant the opposite of what it said.

CBC broke the story about a leaked cabinet document confirming that the petroleum sector will get weaker pollution targets than others, plus all polluters will get the option of paying into a technology fund instead of reducing emissions.

Now, Environment Minister Jim Prentice is confirming that he hasn't ruled out special treatment for the tar sands and says it's because the Americans are making him do it.

Prentice is now saying that the tar sands qualify as "trade exposed" - the label used by the Americans for those industries (like steel companies) likely to re-locate elsewhere due to local carbon laws. Yes, that's right, the tar sands deposit, all 173 billion barrels, is going to pick up and move somewhere else.

Moreover, all Canadian polluters will need to be able to pay into a technology fund rather than reduce emissions -- even though American companies are given no such loophole under draft climate legislation there.

How the Canadian delegation can walk into negotiations here in Copenhagen and keep a straight face with other countries regarding its sincerity to meet even its own inadequate targets is in serious doubt given these latest reports.

How the Canadian people will feel about the Conservative government letting tar sands pollution explode while everyone else is supposed to be making reductions is another matter.

Matt Price is the program director for Environmental Defense. He is attending the COP 15 climate change conference in Copenhagen.

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