OTTAWA (AFP) — Canada will ban the export of tar-like bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to countries that don't match Canadian targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"We are imposing regulations on the oil sands to achieve important environmental targets for this country," said Harper at a press briefing on Friday, adding that Canada will not allow the emission target to be avoided "by exporting to countries that do not impose sufficient environmental standards.
"We think that's environmentally responsible," said Harper.
The United States is the largest consumer of bitumen from the oil sands in Alberta, the western Canadian province that holds 173 billion barrels of the oil source in its reserves.
Harper's promise is likely to have no impact on bitumen exports to the United States, said Environment Minister John Baird, but could affect the construction of a major pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific coast to feed the Asian market.
Questioned on whether the emission target proposal would have an impact on future bitumen exports to Asian countries, Harper replied: "Well, it could. It absolutely could."
The prime minister refused to name the countries most likely to be affected by his pledge, but according to analysts China would be affected more than others because it imports more of the oil source than any other Asian nation.
Canada will not meet targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, but Harper has pledged to reduce Canada's emissions by 20 percent by 2020, a target deemed inadequate by Harper's critics and environmentalists.
An estimated 500,000 of the 1.3 million barrels of bitumen produced in Alberta each day are exported before they are transformed into crude oil.
Oil production in Alberta, an industry that generates a significant amount of greenhouse gases, is projected to triple by 2015.
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