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Workers talk near a Caterpillar Inc. mining truck at Syncrude Canada Ltd.'s oil sands North Mine in Fort McMurray, Alta. (Jimmy Jeong/Bloomberg)
Workers talk near a Caterpillar Inc. mining truck at Syncrude Canada Ltd.'s oil sands North Mine in Fort McMurray, Alta. (Jimmy Jeong/Bloomberg)

Norwegian ministers reveal rift over oil sands Add to ...

Norway’s energy minister has sparked a row with his environment minister colleague by backing Canada’s opposition to the Europe’s fuel quality directive, which Ottawa claims discriminates against the oil sands.

During a visit to Canada this week, Energy and Petroleum Minister Ola Borten Moe told The Globe and Mail that the proposed European Union regulation is neither scientific nor transparent.

But Norwegian Environment Minister Erik Solheim told reporters on Thursday that his colleague was not speaking for the government on the fuel quality directive. While Norway is not a member of the EU, it would be bound by the regulation under an economic agreement it has with the community.

“He has seen what Mr. Moe has said in Canada and he disagrees,” Jon Berg, a spokesman for Mr. Solheim, said in an interview from Oslo. “Regarding the fuel directive from the EU, the government has not decided yet.”

The two ministers represent different parties in Norway coalition government and have clashed in the past. Mr. Moe represents the smaller Centre Party, while Mr. Solheim is with Labor, the senior partner in the coalition.

In September, Mr. Solheim criticized his cabinet colleague for defending the coal industry and questioned Norway’s climate targets, saying Mr. Moe’s views “were not underwritten by the government.”

Canada has been aggressively lobbying to defeat the regulation being proposed by the European commission and due to come to a vote next month in the European Parliament. The regulation would force refiners to cut emissions by 6 per cent, and would set emissions resulting from extraction and use of oil sands-derived fuel at 23 per cent above that of conventional oil.

Mr. Moe – who was traveling to the oil sands after a stop in Ottawa – defended Canadian unconventional crude production, saying it will be an essential source of secure supply for an energy-hungry world.

Environmentalists were dismayed at the Norwegian’s support for the oil sands, and his endorsement of the state-owned Statoil ASA’s investment there.

“Norway’s move into the tar sands threatens to undermine their excellent, and to this point well-deserved, reputation for playing a positive role in the fight against global warming,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada.

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