Greens hijack Canadian oil sands European speech

LONDON, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Environmentalists on Thursday hurled accusations and interrupted a speech by Canada’s resources minister, who was on tour to persuade Britain not to join the European Union in condemning oil from Canadian tar sands as dirty.

As part of a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the European Union’s executive commission wants to single out crude from the enormous Canadian northern Alberta oil sands as being particularly energy-intensive to produce.

Canada’s Conservative government fears this could limit the future market for tar sands crude and blur the message that Canada is a reliable energy superpower.

The debate in Europe promises to be hot as diplomats say Britain and the Netherlands - home to firms that are investing in the sands - are privately helping to push the Canadian point of view.

Environmental campaigners from People and Planet gave Minister Joe Oliver a hard time on Thursday as he spoke at the London School of Economics.

They repeatedly interrupted his speech and handed him an award for being what they described as the “greenwash propagandist of the year” for “contorting science” and “rebranding the world’s most destructive project”.

“This lecture today was an inappropriate attempt to use an educational venue to promote the Canadian tar sands industry,” said People & Planet’s campaigner Liam Barrington-Bush.

Oliver suggested earlier this month that Ottawa could take the EU to the World Trade Organization if the Europeans adopted the fuel quality directive.

In an interview with Reuters earlier this week he said the EU could still reject the idea.

He said the carbon intensity of crude from the oil sands was similar to oil from major suppliers to the EU such as Mexico, Venezuela, Nigeria and Russia and that singling out oil sands crude made no sense from a scientific point of view.

Environmentalists say Canada’s aggressive lobbying seemed to have shifted UK policy.

“Now the UK government seems to have taken on Canadian government rhetoric, and it’s trying to convince other member states to adopt the Canadian line,” said Suzanne Dhaliwal, from the campaigning group UK Tar Sands Network, who also attended the event.

Big companies active in the oil sands include Suncor Energy Inc , Total SA , Royal Dutch Shell and Canadian Natural Resources . They and others have invested tens of billions of dollars in projects in the region.