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Minister fears Alberta’s oil sands will become global climate pariah

Alberta risks a massive global backlash to its fossil fuel industry if European Union policymakers enact restrictions on oil sands fuel, a provincial minister said Monday.

“Our fear is that if something happens in the EU and it is spread in other countries — not only members of the EU — we could have roughly one-third of the world’s population subscribing to regulation or legislation that mitigates against our oilsands,” Alberta International and Intergovernmental Relations Minister Iris Evans reportedly said.

Her comments came after a dozen-member European Parliament delegation arrived in Edmonton. The visitors are travelling Tuesday to northern Alberta to study environmental impacts of the oil sands industry.

"We noticed there is a disparity between the official data and what has been presented by the NGOs on water usage and C02 emissions," delegate Antonyia Parvanova reportedly said.

Last year, the European Union proposed climate legislation that would have restricted fuel imports from Alberta’s oil sands, a high emitter of greenhouse gases.

Strong objections from Canadian EU ambassador Ross Hornby and oil company lobbyists likely caused policymakers to remove provisions targeting the industry this spring. (Click here to read a comprehensive Tyee report).

The European Union decided last month to delay making a final decision on oil sands fuel until late 2011.

Canada actually sells almost all its crude oil to the United States. But Albertan policymakers such as Evans and environment minister Rob Renner have stated publicly they fear European climate legislation will be copied around the world.

That could bode poorly for Enbridge’s plans to construct a pipeline to B.C.’s west coast, and then ship oil sands crude on supertankers to China and beyond.

Both politicians travelled to Europe this year to discuss their concerns with the EU’s climate plan. Premier Ed Stelmach is in India right now to speak at southeast Asia’s largest petroleum show.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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