Tar sands latest

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The White House decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline in the US has been delayed until 2013 as the proposed route is re-examined (see here). The delay, which has been hailed by opponents as a major victory, could put the financial viability of the project at risk. However, Transcanada, the company building the pipeline, says it remains committed to the project and claims there is an increased demand to ship oil through the pipeline, which would outweigh the costs of re-routing.

In the UK, the Royal Bank of Scotland, a major funder of Canadian tar sands and other fossil fuel projects, pulled out of its sponsorship of Climate Week (see here). The bank had been heavily criticised for its sponsorship of the event, with environmental groups accusing it of greenwash. RBS, which is majority-owned by UK taxpayers, said it remained “committed to supporting an open and frank debate around the transition to a low carbon economy.”

Meanwhile, on 28 November, a group of 50 Greenpeace activists blockaded the UK Department for Transport in protest at government efforts to prevent restrictions on tar sands entering Europe. The action follows revelations by the Cooperative Group and Friends of the Earth Europe of extensive lobbying by the Canadian government and oil companies aimed at influencing the UK position on the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD).

The FQD is a new EU policy that would significantly restrict tar sands oil coming into Europe. The UK government was initially supportive of the policy. However, following what seems to have been a concerted lobbying campaign by the industry, it is now actively opposing the new policy. The directive is yet to be approved by the full European Parliament in the next couple of months.