Fuel Quality Directive

Europe however threatened to throw a spanner in the works. In 2009 it accepted the so-called Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), a guideline obliging fuel suppliers to reduce CO2 emissions in the transport sector with 6 percent. The core of the new FQD measures was the distinction between various kinds of fuel based on their CO2 emissions.

In a study done for the European Commission, professor Adam Brandt of Stanford University concluded that the emissions of tar sands oil are 23 percent higher than those of conventional oil. Following this research, the Commission attributed a higher emission value to tar sands oil. The message was clear: to achieve the 6 percent CO2 reduction the use of tar sands had to be discouraged.

Canada, the US and oil multinationals such as BP and Shell saw the European measures as a threat. The CETA and TTIP negotiations turned out to be a good opportunity to express their worries.

The Fuel Quality Directive was a widely discussed subject during the negotiations with Canada, as becomes clear from confidential files which the Commission had to release. The Canadian minister-president Stephen Harper, ambassador Ross Hornby, a minister from the oil province Alberta: they all visited the European Commission to have their say.

The Canadians fiercely opposed the dirty label for tar sands oil. The emissions of this oil are roughly the same as those of conventional oil, they stated. Oil companies such as Chevron and Exxon started a large scale lobby against the 'arbitrary distinction' between conventional and tar sands oil.

Soon the US also entered the discussion. David Friedman, vice-president of the American Fuel and Petrol Manufacturers – an organisation representing companies like Chevron and Shell – explicitly called out to American negotiators to use the trade talks to discuss the Fuel Quality Directive.

Michael Froman, chief US negotiator in the TTIP talks, shared the concern that the Fuel Quality Directive would be 'a barrier for American-European trade.' Froman: 'I have raised these issues with senior Commission officials on several occasions, including in the context of the TTIP.' He promised he would 'continue to press the [European] Commission to take the views of stakeholders, including US refiners, under consideration.'

Karel de Gucht, European trade commissioner at the time, firmly denied any link between TTIP and the implementation of the Fuel Quality Directive.

Trade over everything

The European Commission eventually gave in to the pressure. This is shown by a leaked European Council document from July 2014, drafted in preparation for the last CETA summit. The document states that cooperation with Canada in the area of energy is ‘underperforming, due in part to Canada's opposition to the pending implementing measure under the EU's Fuel Quality Directive.' It goes on saying that the new proposal was realised 'following very close consultations with the Canadian side and other stakeholders, and should address Canada's key concerns'. Apparently it did: during the September 2014 summit in Ottawa the finalization of the CETA negotiations was celebrated.

In the new proposal for the Fuel Quality Directive from 2014, the distinction between conventional and tar sands oil has been dropped.

Many blame the intensive Canadian lobby for the disappearance of the dirty label for tar sands. Catherine Bearder, member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the liberal-democrats: 'The pressure from Canada was enormous. [We have] capitulated and thrown science out of the window.'

When asked why the Fuel Quality Directive was watered down, the Commission answered that 'the Canadians have been very persuasive.'


The influence of the trade treaties with Canada and the US on the climate directive is no exception. Well before its completion TTIP has already influenced the workings of the meat processing industry, where it was recently permitted to cleanse meat using lactic acid. The European wish to label meat and other products derived from the offspring of cloned animals has also been swept of the table.

On the 23th of February 2015 the European Commission presented a long-awaited bill about cloning. They had previously been sent back to the drawing board by Parliament because the original proposal did not meet its demands. The Parliament insisted that products from offspring of cloned animals would also be labelled. Yet, the Commission did not give in: the new proposal did not take the offspring of cloned animals into account.

An earlier and 'more ambitious proposal',which did include this, was supposedly blocked in order 'not to threaten the TTIP treaty', says Peter Liese, MEP for the christian-democrats.

The American government does not require companies to keep track of which animals are cloned. The meat processing industry therefore fears higher costs if they submit to the European standards.