An EU committee last week voted against steps that would keep the door open for imports of crude oil from Canadian oil sands.

  • On October 6, the European Commission published draft implementing measures for Article 7a of the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD).1 Article 7a FQD, introduced in the legislation in 2009, includes controversial provisions requiring fuel suppliers to reduce life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of energy from transport fuels by 6% by 2020.
  • The provisions are considered to disincentivize the use of transport fuels produced from certain unconventional crude feedstocks, including crude oil produced from Canadian oil sands deposits. 
  • The draft implementing measures for Article 7a FQD have been under review by the EU’s Council of Ministers and the European Parliament since publication in October. Both the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament must back the draft implementing measures.
  • On December 3, the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) committee backed a resolution rejecting the draft implementing measures (split 38:29).2 The resolution argued that the draft implementing measures are incompatible with FQD provisions, focussing specifically on the proposed use of the same weighted life-cycle unit GHG intensity measure for both conventional and unconventional feedstocks.
  • Privately, a number of legislators also expressed growing frustration at the position and tactics of the European Commission and Council of Ministers on the draft implementing measures.  
  • On December 4, the EU Council of Ministers’ Environment working group (composed of EU Member State government representatives) backed the draft implementing measures by a qualified majority without amendment. Abstentions included the Netherlands, suggesting a conflict of views on the draft implementing measures within the coalition government.
  • The ENVI committee’s resolution will go to the European Parliament’s plenary in the week commencing December 15. While the plenary will often vote on the recommendation of committees it is unclear at this time if the plenary will back the resolution and reject the draft implementing measures. According to particular procedure used, the resolution requires the support of a majority of the legislature’s component members (376 votes).3 With political groups split and a busy legislative agenda it may be difficult for backers of the resolution to secure the necessary votes.
  • Should the plenary back the resolution with sufficient votes and reject the draft implementing measures the European Commission will be obliged to withdraw the measures and resubmit new draft implementing measures at a later date.
  • Should the plenary reject the resolution or back the resolution but with insufficient votes the draft implementing measures will be automatically adopted.