02/16/2012 12:45 EST | Updated 04/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Oil Sands: EU 'Grandstanding' On Energy Imports, Says Federal Resources Minister Joe Oliver

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CALGARY - Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is calling a European effort to bar oil imports from Alberta's oilsands nothing more than grandstanding.

Proposed changes to the European Union's fuel quality directive would reduce emissions from transport fuels by 10 per cent in the next decade — a goal that would make it more difficult to import oilsands fuel.

Oliver says the European position is both unscientific and an attempt to single out Canadian crude.

"The European fuel quality directive wants to put oilsands oil in a separate category," he said at a pipeline conference in Calgary on Thursday.

"It's an attempt to single out and discriminate against our oilsands, which don't have any economic relevance to them at this point. It's grandstanding and we're opposed to it — and an increasing number of European countries are opposed to it."

Oliver said the EU conveniently ignores the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions from Russian and Iranian oil production.

An increasing number of European countries, most recently France, have indicated they are opposed to the proposal, he added.

Later in Edmonton, Oliver signed an agreement with Alberta Premier Alison Redford on oilsands environmental research.

The agreement commits the two levels of government to work together to reduce the industry's environmental footprint, including its greenhouse gas emissions.

The memorandum of understanding comes with about $3 million in funding to start. The research areas are to involve pipeline corrosion, water, air and mine tailings.

Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema said the agreement is "like saying the cure to diabetes is to eat more sugar."

"We need legally binding, science-based emission reductions that drive investment in green energy, not handshakes and hollow promises to do better in the tarsands."

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