Canadian Tar Sands Poised to Flood European Market As U.S. Considers Lifting Oil Export Ban
By Phil Ortiz
Recent developments in Europe and the U.S. are setting the groundwork for a surge in Canadian tar sands production.
In both regions, government leaders are considering proposals that would loosen import and export regulations for the fuel, which has been estimated to produce 23 percent more greenhouse gases than conventional oil.
The European Commission is currently grappling with the future of the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), a 2009 order that requires a six percent reduction in the greenhouse intensity of transport fuels before 2020. The law is intended to calculate the carbon-intensity of fuels—including gasoline, diesel and biofuels—from extraction to combustion.
The FQD, however, has been hamstrung by inter-European disagreement over how these calculations should be structured. The powerful Canadian oil lobby, which views Europe as an attractive export market, has joined the fray, and has conducted more than 100 meetings with EU officials in hopes of permanently crippling the regulation.
A new white paper from the European Commission suggests that Canadian oil interests may be winning the war over Europe’s climate future. The document, which outlines long term EU climate goals, proposes eliminating the FQD after 2020 and omits any specific targets for reducing transport-related emissions.
At the moment, Canadian tar sands comprise only 0.03 percent of the European fuel supply. Without full enforcement of the FQD or the implementation other fuel regulations, consumption could skyrocket from about 4,00 barrels per day to close to a million per day by 2020. This increase is the equivalent of placing six million new cars on Europe’s roads.
While worries over a stripped down FQD in Europe are developing, on the other side of the Atlantic a new concern is growing as some American politicians call for an end to the 40-year-old crude export ban. Originally created to shield domestic consumers from volatile global oil prices, the ban is now also keeping shale oil in the ground as U.S. refineries reach peak capacity.
Two prominent U.S. Senators recently claimed they would consider introducing legislation to lift the ban if President Obama declines to take executive action to do so, and last week the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on lifting the ban. Meanwhile, federal agencies have begun granting re-export licenses that are sending oil from the U.S. to Europe for the first time since 2008.
The climate impacts of large-scale American crude exports cannot be understated. Lifting the export ban would almost certainly cause a rise in domestic oil drilling, and exports would likely surpass 500,000 barrels per day by 2017. According to a recent report by Oil Change International, crude exports would also raise overall greenhouse gas emissions.
Lifting the ban could also help to turn the U.S. into a conduit for Canadian tar sands. Under this scenario, Canadian crude oil would be extracted from tar sands deposits in Alberta, sent to American refineries in the Gulf of Mexico—either by rail or via the contentious Keystone XL pipeline—and then shipped to worldwide export markets.
A large-scale dismantling of the European FQD and an end to the American crude export ban would open the floodgates, allowing Canadian tar sands to flow into refineries and gas tanks the world over.
In view of the consequences of loosening current regulations, the apparent political passivity of leaders on both the European and North American continents is a sign that business interests are likely to trump the interests of containing the world’s warming to safe levels.
Visit EcoWatch’s TAR SANDS page for more related news on this topic.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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