Canada was two drops of tar sands oil away from taking a hard blow to sales in Europe.
The Europeans were all set to clobber Canada but in the end Stephen Harper and his good friends in the big oil companies of Alberta won the day.
Self-interest persuaded the Europeans to ease off.
The oil from the tar sands is among the dirtiest in the world, 23% more pollutant than those sweet traditional oil wells of Western Canada.
Many European countries don’t want a single drop of what they call "the Canadian scum" that is responsible for so much climatic change – as Europe comes out of floods, storms, record freezing and just plain bad weather that they blame on the Canadian tar sands.
It's been months since the Harper government lobbyists spent millions on a campaign to convince European leaders of the cleanliness and wholesomeness of the Canadian oil sands.
Yesterday, to the delight of the Harper government and the Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, it paid off. An committee of experts from the European Commission refused to approve an amendment to the European Directive on fuel quality would have been detrimental to sale of Canadian oil sands petroleum in Europe.
It’s not fear of losing Canadian oil sands petroleum sales in Europe.
Canada sells only about 1% of the oil sands production in Europe.
It is the influence that a European cutback or a boycott can have on the rest of the world. The reduction of sales in European markets could induce California and other states, and even entire countries, to join the Europeans and do the same to Canada. Now that would hurt sales.
And what if this led to an outright boycott of other Canadian goods, as did the European protest against the seal hunt?
In the end, what settled the question in favor of Canada was foreign investment in the oil sands.
France has its Total, the Netherlands has Royal Dutch Shell, and the British have their British Petroleum (BP). All three oil companies have invested heavily in the oil sands.
The environment is important, but in the end, money still matters more.