Europe moves to ban imports of tar sands oil from Canada

An attempt to classify tar sands oil as more environmentally-damaging than conventional oil would effectively ban its sale within European Member States


Two tonnes of topsoil have to be removed to produce each barrel of bitumen, creating vast open mines (photo from Tarnished Earth exhibition, Jiri Rezac ©)

The European Union is moving to prevent tar sands oil from entering the European market due to the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) associated with its production.

Oil from the tar sands industry is set to be classified as having greater GHG emissions than conventional oil in a review of the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive. Recognising the greater environmental impact of tar sands oil will effectively ban its use in EU states, where fuel providers are legally bound to aim for 6 per cent reductions in GHG emissions by 2020.

Tar sands are deposits of oil-rich bitumen mixed with clay and sand embedded in rocks often buried beneath the surface. Two tonnes of topsoil have to be removed to produce each barrel of bitumen, creating vast open mines. Extracting the deposits is estimated to be three times more carbon-intensive than conventional oil sources. It also causes the loss of natural habitats with vast areas of boreal forest cleared in order to mine the sandy bitumen – and pollution of local waterways with toxic chemicals.

Read the full story in the Ecologist

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