The federal government will invest $230 millionover four yearson developingclean energy technologies in Canada, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn said Wednesday.
The announcement, one of three this week involving environmental initiatives, is part of a larger federal plan to promote Canada as an energy superpower.
"The energy sector is one of our greatest successes. It is a major underpinning of our strong economy and the quality of life which Canadians are very proud of," Lunn told reporters in Ottawa.
"But we must do better. We must reduce emissions. We must become not just an energy superpower, but we must also become aclean energy superpower."
Lunn said the investment, called the ecoEnergy Technology Initiative, means total government spending onscience and technologywill be$1.5 billion over the next four years.
Hesaid the federal government has decided its priorities for the environment includeenergy efficiency, renewable energy and cleaning up conventional energy.
"We think technology is one of the keys to cleaning up conventional energy production," he said.
Cleaner energy consumption, he said,includes carbon capture and storage and clean coal technology and research and development that will enable oilsands production in Alberta to be cleaner.
"We will challenge industry to come to the table like they never have before."
Lunn said he favours nuclear energy to extract petroleum from the oilsands in Alberta. "There's great promise in the oilsands for nuclear energy," he said.
"Nuclear energy is emission free. There's no greenhouse gases. We burn a lot of natural gas to extract that oil from the sands right now. There's great opportunity to pursue nuclear energy, something that I'm very keen on."
Lunn added there is no question that Canadians must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and meet emission targets, but those targets must be realistic and enforceable.
Environment Minister John Baird, who also spoke at the news conference, said the government knows it must take real action on climate change and it will do so in part through the use of clean energy technologies.
"Clean energy ties itself directly to the environment,"Baird said.
Baird said thegovernment isinvesting in ways of"protecting the atmosphere from waste gases, producing fuel technology to provide emergency back-up power instead of using conventional diesel generators, developing advanced clean coal technology to enable industry to reduce toxic emissions and studying ways in which to build solar heated homes and communities."
Further announcements expected Friday and Sunday
On Friday, the Conservative government is expected to speak about renewable energy, such as wind power, and on Sunday, it is expected to unveila new program dealing with energy efficiency in the home.
John Bennett, executive director of Climate Action Network,told CBC News on Wednesday thatclean energy technology is one way to protect the environment, but the best way is through regulation of industries that produce greenhouse gas emissions.
"There are all kinds of technology that show promise. We don't need investments into the future as badly as we need regulations on what we are doing today," he said. "It's critical that we get to the regulation of large polluters."
Bennett said environmentalists want regulations that would put a "hard cap" on greenhouse gas emissions produced by industry, with levels to be reduced by six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. Also needed, he added, is an overallreduction in demand for energy.
"We really need initiatives that get the demand for energy down as opposed to looking for new supply."
Bennett said the government has provided few details about the new spending.
Lunn declined at the news conference to specify which companies will receive federal funding to develop clean energy technologies, although hedescribed a few that have attracted government interest.
Matthew Bramley, spokesperson for the Pembina Institute,told CBC News thatnuclear energy is not a good idea for use in the oil sands because it is costly, creates much waste and carries the risk of contamination. The institute is an independent environmental policy research organization.
"Nuclear energy should be right at the bottom of the list," he said.
Bramley said the government should implement "tough regulations" and "strong incentives" as part of a "credible climate change plan" to make energy production cleaner in Canada.
Glen Murray, the chair of the national roundtable on environment and the economy, said Tuesday he welcomes the news but he said Canada is lagging behind other countriesin thedevelopment of environmental technology.
"The question is: does Canada lead that technology revolution, and be a maker of things for this new economy, or do we trail it and end up being a buyer of other people's technology and innovation?" he said.
Murray said clean energy technologies will not help Canada meet its first targets set under the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement under which more than 160 countries pledged to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. He said the first targets may be out of reach by now, anyway.
If Canada fails to take action to curb its greenhouse gas emissions in the next five years, he said, the country will have a hard time meeting any targets set under the protocol.