The UK government has been giving secret support at the very highest levels to Canada (external - login to view)'s campaign against European penalties on its highly polluting tar sands fuel, the Guardian can reveal.
At the same time, the UK government was being lobbied by Shell (external - login to view) and BP (external - login to view), which both have major tar sands projects in Alberta, and opened a new consulate in the province to "support British commercial interests".
At least 15 high-level meetings and frequent communications have taken place since September, with David Cameron discussing the issue with his counterpart Stephen Harper during his visit to Canada, and stating privately that the UK wanted "to work with Canada on finding a way forward", according to documents released under freedom of information laws.
Charles Hendry, the energy (external - login to view) minister, later told the Canadian high commissioner: "We would value continued discussion with you on how we can progress discussions in Brussels," with Hendry's official asking the Canadians if they had "any suggestions as to what we might do, given the politics in Brussels".
Canada's vast tar sands – also known as oil sands (external - login to view) – are the second largest reserve of carbon in the world after Saudi Arabia, although the energy needed to extract oil (external - login to view) from the ground means the process results in far more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil drilling, as well as causing the destruction of forests and air and water pollution.
UK secretly helping Canada push its oil sands project | Environment | The Guardian (external - login to view)
But wait, there's more...did you know that...
Britain's promotion of Canada's tar sands oil is idiotic
Here's the essential fact to bear in mind. The tar sands of northern Alberta are the second-largest pool of carbon on earth, second only to Saudi Arabia. It's burning Saudi Arabia, more than any other single thing, that has raised the temperature of the planet by a degree so far. But when oil (external - login to view) was discovered in the Middle East, we knew nothing about climate change (external - login to view) – it's not surprising that we started pumping. In the case of Canada (external - login to view), however, we've taken 3% of the oil from the sands. We're still at the start. If, knowing what we now know about climate change, we just keep going, then we're idiots.
That realisation explains why Americans rose up in remarkable numbers to fight the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. In August 1,253 people were arrested outside the White House during the largest civil disobedience action in a generation (external - login to view). Citizens ringed the president's mansion in a line a mile long and five people deep. A couple of weeks ago, the president announced that he would delay the pipeline for a new environmental review, which would cover not only the route across the country but also climate change, public health, and other issues.
Britain's promotion of Canada's tar sands oil is idiotic | Environment | guardian.co.uk (external - login to view)