Canadian research may hold key to 'clean coal:' Goodyear

WASHINGTON — Globe and Mail Update

Canadian research into carbon capture - funded by government - may hold the key to making "clean coal" a reality and reducing the environmental impact of energy from Alberta's oil sands, Science Minister Gary Goodyear said today.

Mr. Goodyear, during a speech in Washington at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said the Conservative government was "investing $1 billion over five years to support development of next-generation clean energy technologies, such as very promising carbon capture and storage; clean coal; reduction of oil sands' environmental impacts; hydrogen and fuel cells; energy efficient buildings and industry; and renewable energy from clean sources such as wind, solar, tidal and biomass."

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"Clean coal" - the term seized by America's huge coal industry - has become a hot Washington topic as environmental groups deride it as an impossible dream and critics suggest U.S. President Barack Obama's backing for it is the Achilles heel in his plan to tackle climate change.

Mr. Goodyear's passing reference to "clean coal" underscored Ottawa's efforts to stay in step with the Obama agenda, especially as Canadian oil sands are increasingly being targeted by environmental groups as among the dirtiest of U.S. energy imports.

"This is an area of critical importance for everyone and we hope that we can work with the United States and our international partners on developing new technologies to combat climate change," Mr. Goodyear said.

Only days after Mr. Obama delighted America's scientific community by saying the "days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over" - a clear reference to the eight years George W. Bush was president - Mr. Goodyear made a point of claiming Canada's Conservative government took science seriously.

"Canada sees the role of science and technology in contributing to global economic growth and recovery," he said. "We know that the jobs of tomorrow are found in the discoveries of today, so we look at research funding as investment - investment in innovation, in scientific discovery, in job creation, and as a hedge against tough economic conditions."

But he also said the government's role in funding science went beyond backing pure research. Ottawa's science spending reflects "our government's emphasis on commercializing research and improving the processes that help get innovative ideas to the marketplace," Mr. Goodyear told a two-day AAAS forum on science and technology.

"Commercialization is one area in which public policy makers play a huge role in enabling the private sector to do what it does best - turn knowledge into innovation, and innovation into greater wealth and well-being for people."