EU committee fails to decide on tar sands issue

Years of lobbying against draft EU rules that would see fuel from tar sands labelled as more polluting than from other sources only led to a stalemate yesterday when a committee of technical experts failed to agree on the proposal.

According to the EU executive and environmentalists the "dirty" label was warranted to help fuel buyers choose the least polluting energy forms and help to curb global warming.

Canada, with massive crude reserves mostly in the form of tar sands or oil sands, has challenged the EU law, saying it was discriminatory and could damage trade ties.

Yesterday's vote at a closed-door meeting of technical experts failed to throw up a majority under the EU's voting system, which weights voting to reflect the populations of the EU's member states.

Climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard declared it a victory against the tar sands lobbyists that the meeting ended in a "no vote".

"With all the lobbyism against the Commission proposal, I feared that member states' experts would have rejected the proposal in today's experts committee. I am glad that this was not the case," Hedegaard said in a statement.