Mark Milke of Canada’s Fraser Institute was a good promoter of the interests of the oil industry in his opinion piece (“Does the EU value emissions over human rights?”, 17-23 November). That is of no surprise, since the Fraser Institute has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil industry ($120,000 – or €85,600 – from Exxon and over $350,000, or €250,000, from Koch Brothers in the past decade).
He tries to downplay the negative impact of tar sands, but his analyses are highly questionable. Milke argues that only 20% of tar sands oil is extracted by strip mining – a process that strips away boreal forest and tears massive holes in the earth up to 100 metres deep. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers gives a very different figure: it states in its 2011 report that, in 2010, 53% of tar sands oil came from mining. The impact on Canada’s landscape is tremendous.
Secondly, he mentions an IHS-Cambridge Energy Research study that concludes that oil derived from tar sands emits only 6% more than average oil production. IHS’s main clients are oil companies and the Canadian government – the main promoters of tar sands. Independent research by Stanford University, commissioned by the European Commission, indicates that oil from tar sands results in 23% higher carbon emissions.
Thirdly, he suggests that the Commission would be better to push car companies to reduce emissions. The Commission has made car manufacturers subject to binding targets for emission reductions for a number of years. These targets should be more ambitious, but there is no reason to let the oil industry off the hook.
Finally, Milke argues that Canadian oil is preferable to oil from Iran or Saudi Arabia, as Canada has a superb human-rights record. This argument completely ignores the destructive impact that tar-sands mining has on the environment and climate. It also ignores the severe violations of the rights of indigenous communities in Canada, and their repeated complaints about the impact of tar-sand exploration on their health and livelihoods.
The question is not whether we prefer Canadian oil over Saudi oil. Rather, it is whether we can reduce our emissions and do more to protect human rights, both in Iran and in Canada. We can do both, if we reduce dependence on fossil fuels and encourage cleaner production.
Paul de Clerck
Friends of the Earth Europe
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