Europe pioneers weighting scheme

For those who accuse the Europeans of being too messianic in our greenery, there is the Europe plan to reduce the carbon intensity of transport fuel.

Under proposed new rules for this scheme, different sources of crude oil would be given weightings to reflect how much they pollute. To meet the European government’s target—a 6% reduction in carbon intensity by 2020—filthier-than-average sorts of fuel, such as diesel derived from coal or petrol from shale oil or Canadian tar sands, would need mixing with cleaner sorts, like biofuels.

This upset Canada, and firms such as Shell and BP which have invested heavily in Alberta’s sludgy natural bitumen. They do not deny that getting oil from tar sands is a dirty business. The European government says that Alberta’s tar sands creates 23% more emissions than the average source; Shell says 5-15%. Yet they argue that the proposals would punish Canada for being upfront about this, with less transparent polluters, such as Nigeria, which flares lots of natural gas from its oil production, liable to evade Europe’s censure.

Fans of the weightings admit they are not perfect, but argue that, as in the case of airlines and the ETS, it is better to make the best possible start than to delay action indefinitely. The issue is to be discussed by the European administration on 19 January.