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Anti-oil sands laws in US and EU face new attacks

Two clean energy laws targeting Alberta’s oil sands – one in the United States, one in Europe – are facing new threats to their existence.

If both are overturned, fear environmental observers, it could represent a major step backwards for developed world efforts to fight global warming.

The first battleground is located on Capitol Hill, where the House of Representatives recently passed a defense bill with potentially profound clean energy implications.

Tucked deep inside the Defense Authorization Act of 2012 is a clause exempting the U.S. military from Section 526.

As the Tyee reported from Washington, DC, earlier this spring, Section 526 was one of the first major congressional attempts to limit fuel imports from Alberta’s oil sands.

Championed by Democrat congressman Henry Waxman, it forbids the U.S. government – and most importantly, the military – from using fuels with a higher carbon footprint than regular oil and gas.

Canadian government officials and oil industry lobbyists have fought against Section 526 for years, fearing it would reduce demand for northern Alberta's greenhouse gas-intensive fuel.

From their perspective, the recent House defense bill is a major victory, assuming it’s approved by the U.S. Senate this summer.

But retired Air Force General Norman R. Seip believes “removing Section 526 would be a step backward for U.S. security and clean energy innovation.”

Already, he co-writes on the Energy Collective, the military has figured out how to fly certain jets on a blend of biofuels. And burgeoning clean energy companies are increasingly looking to the military as a big customer for their products.

“Repeal [of Section 526] would discourage innovation and force the military into a deepening dependence on dirty fossil fuels,” he writes.

The second energy battleground is in Europe, where the United Kingdom recently suggested it won’t support a major clean road fuel initiative unless clauses targeting Alberta’s oil sands are re-examined.

As the Independent reports: “Politicians and [green] campaigners called this a ‘simple stalling tactic’, which could take years to complete.”

The European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive – like Section 526 – has for years been the scene of a major lobbying offensive by Canadian government officials and multinational oil companies.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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