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Obama's Top Official Pushing Tar Sands in Secret Trade Deal

Trade rep. advocates for dirty oil industry against EU's already-insufficient regs despite Obama's promises to cut carbon

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman confirmed by President Obama in May 2013 (Photo: AP)As President Obama publicly promises to curb carbon emissions, his top trade official is pushing for tar sands industry handouts and influence in the highly secretive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, launching attacks on EU tar sands regulations that green groups say are already too insufficient.

"The U.S. has no business rolling back any kind of protection from the world's dirtiest oil at a time when we're supposed to be making progress on climate," Eddie Scher of the Sierra Club told Common Dreams.

Questioned before the House Ways and Means Committee in late July, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman railed against a proposed change to the EU Fuel Quality Directive that requires a 6 percent reduction in gas and diesel emissions by 2020. The ammendment under question would label bitumen—oil extracted from tar sands—as a high-emissions diesel, a rating that would 'discourage' but not prevent EU fuel suppliers from buying tar sands oil.

Environmental groups say that the regulation that Froman is attempting to gut is already grossly insufficient. "The regulation is not really doing anything," Scott Parkin of Rainforest Action Network told Common Dreams. "It's just saying tar sands should be called something different. We are saying that tar sands need to stay in the ground. Period."

Yet, Froman charges this so-called regulation goes too far. When Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) claimed the proposed regulations are "discriminatory, environmentally unjustified and could constitute a barrier to U.S.-EU trade," Froman stated, "I share your concerns."

"I have raised these issues with senior Commission officials on several occasions, including in the context of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP)," he wrote in a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee. "We continue to press the Commission to take the views of stakeholders, including U.S. refiners, under considerations as they finalize these amendments."

Obama's trade official is publicly advocating for the tar sands oil industry despite the president's June speech in which he declared he would cut carbon emissions and only approve the Keystone XL pipeline if it "does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution."

Green groups, who say the oil pipeline would increase carbon emissions by definition, are organizing a mounting campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline and tar sands extraction. So far, 75,000 people have pledged to commit civil disobedience if the president approves the pipeline.Protest against tar sands extraction in London in 2009. (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons / Eugenio hidden side) Opponents of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline demonstrate in front of the White House in 2011. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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