08/04/2011 02:45 EDT | Updated 10/04/2011 05:12 EDT

Oil Sands: Canada's 'Unprecedented' EU Pressure Campaign Undermines Science, Report Says

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty

Canada's government has been engaged in an "unprecedented" lobbying campaign to stop the EU from adopting fuel standards that could hurt oil sands exports to Europe, says a report from a European environmental group.

According to the report from Friends of the Earth Europe (PDF), Canadian diplomats and oil industry execs have held at least 110 meetings with European officials in the past two years in an effort to prevent the oil sands from being designated as a highly-polluting source of fuel.

The report also states that Canadian diplomats have tried to link free trade negotiations with the EU to the continent's emissions policies, in what FOEE described as "old fashioned strong-arm tactics."

"The Canadian government has undermined independent science, deliberately misled and done everything in its power to undermine and delay the [EU's] Fuel Quality Directive," Darek Urbaniak, FOEE's executive industries spokesman, said in a statement. "This is possibly the most vociferous public relations campaign by a foreign government ever witnessed in the EU and is reminiscent of the tobacco industry in its attempt to delay action on health."

The report comes as allies of Canada's oil industry step up efforts to reform the public image of the oil sands. Famed pundit and Sun News personality Ezra Levant recently tapped Alykhan Velshi, a former Conservative Party of Canada communications guru, to relaunch, a website that seeks to cast the oil sands as an ethical alternative to "conflict oil" -- oil purchased from Middle Eastern and war-torn countries.

According to FOEE, Canadian diplomats in Europe have assembled an "Oil Sands Advocacy Team" that has worked to undermine European scientific research on emissions.

Oil sands exports to Europe are virtually nil, but Canadian officials are worried that if Europe passes oil-quality regulations, it could spur similar legislation in the U.S., which is by far the largest oil sands importer, the Guardian reports.

Oil sands exports to Europe are virtually nil, but Canadian officials are worried that legislation regulating exports of oil to Europe , which is by far the largest purchaser of oil sands product, the Guardian reports.

"The Canadians have attacked their critics for being ill-informed and emotional, whilst saying they stick to the science and the facts. In reality, it is the Canadian government (in close collaboration with the oil industry) that continuously undermines the EU's independent scientific studies, even after they were peer-reviewed," the report stated.

"The Canadian government seems to use the same tactics as the tobacco industry that tried to keep the debate open about smoking."

The report also noted that Canada agreed to develop a plan to reduce carbon emission from the oil sands, "but back home they use completely different language, saying that they will not introduce greenhouse gas legislation that cuts investment."

The Globe and Mail reported in March that Canada has so far not acted on its declaration to the EU that it plans to implement a greenhouse-gas reduction plan for the oil industry.

Carbon emissions have become one of the largest sticking points in Canada-EU trade relations. Canada's airlines recently joined their U.S. counterparts in opposing an EU plan to have airlines participate in the continent's carbon trading plan.

That plan would see airlines buy permits for 15 per cent of their carbon emissions, and airlines would be required to reduce carbon emissions on annual basis. Airlines argue the plan would cost the industry $1.4 billion in 2012, rising to $4 billion annually by 2020.

At the same time, Canada is negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU that promises to open up the world's largest common economic market to Canadian enterprises. But critics say the plan could cost thousands of Canadian manufacturing jobs, and could reduce the ability of local governments to buy locally.

The government in Ottawa has indicated it expects to have a deal finalized next year.