An expert panel with the European Union on Thursday did not come to a decision on whether to reject or support a proposal on labeling petroleum extracted from oil sands as more polluting than crude oil obtained through other means.
Oil sands are sometimes called “tar sands,” which carries a negative connotation, and are found in vast quantities in northern Canada—particularly in the province of Alberta—and to a lesser extent, Kazakhstan and Russia. By some figures, Canada has the third-largest oil reserves in the world.
The European Commission proposed to label oil-sands oil as more polluting and having a greater impact on climate change than other forms of petroleum. Canada had challenged the move and said that it could damage trade with the EU.
Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action, said Thursday’s vote was satisfactory, according to the European Voice. “With all the lobbying against the Commission proposal, I feared the member states’ experts would have rejected the proposal,” she said.
The Commission said that ministers will make a decision on the matter again in June.
Environmental group Greenpeace was pleased with the decision, saying that the issue will be decided upon by publicly accountable officials instead of in backroom deals.
“We will see who’s pulling the strings in Europe. The evidence is clear: tar sands are the world’s dirtiest fuels,” said the organization’s transport policy adviser Franziska Achterberg in a statement. “The decision is even clearer: ministers should stand up to the oil industry and ban them from Europe.”
The local government of Alberta likewise called the decision a “small victory.”“Today’s vote is a small victory for Alberta, but the process in Europe means that a discriminatory [fuel-quality directive] could resurface. Alberta remains committed to working with the EU on the [fuel-quality directive to ensure it is transparent, accountable and scientifically supported,” said Alberta Premier Alison Redford.