By Marie Maitre
PARIS (Reuters) - The European Union must not single out Canada's unconventional oil in a proposed ranking of fuels, said a government representative of Alberta, home to the bulk of Canada's oil wealth, calling for an equal treatment with other fuels.
Cal Dallas, Alberta's Minister of International relations, told Reuters the EU tar sands proposal could damage the reputation of Canada's most lucrative export, but he declined to say if Ottawa could take the case to the World Trade Organization.
"I remain hopeful that we will be able to come to a reasonable solution," Dallas said in an interview in Paris as part of a European tour due to take him to the WTO in Geneva, and to Britain, a traditional ally of Canada.
Britain, home to oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell, has led opposition to the EU proposal to label oil derived from Canada's huge reserves of tar sands, as highly polluting in a proposed green fuel ranking.
"We support the idea of measuring these fuels and the move to a lower-carbon environment but we feel that as it (the EU fuel quality directive or FQD) is currently proposed we are being penalized," Dallas said.
"The data for other fuel sources is not transparent, is not available, and is not being considered in the development of the directive."
The EU ranking assigns tar sands a default greenhouse gas value of 107 grams of carbon per megajoule, informing buyers it has more climate impact than conventional crude with 87.5 grams, EU sources have said.
The EU green fuel ranking completes legislation introduced in 2008, when the bloc agreed to reduce the carbon intensity of its transport fuels by 6 percent by 2020.
Dallas said Alberta's oil industry was making headway in improving its environmental track record. Extracting oil from a mix of sand and clay is energy and water intensive.
"Any development of this scale does have an impact," he said, adding: "There are tremendous advances that have been made in terms of water use, in terms of the energy required to extract the resource, and the level of monitoring is rising."
The FQD pauses a "reputational issue" to Canada, home to the world's third largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, Dallas said. Ottawa has lobbied hard to build acceptance of oil derived from tar sands, which it sees as vital to its economic future.
But Dallas said investments will continue to pour in on Alberta even if the EU goes ahead with current plans as international majors have already spent billions of dollars to develop production.
"Fuel derived from oil sands is going to be an essential component of our immediate future," Dallas said.
"The investment plans that are openly discussed and published contemplate hundreds of billions of dollars of investments in the future. There is a strong set of indicators that global investors will continue to make commitments to develop the oil sand resources."
Dallas also shrugged off any temptation Canada may have to limit foreign companies' access to its vast oil resources.
"I don't contemplate that there will be any change and one of the reasons why we are seeing this level of investments from around the globe is that we are a very predictable, very secure democracy that has offered a very transparent set of rules for business and investments."
(Reporting by Marie Maitre; editing by Jason Neely)