Will Canada Save Clean Coal?

With the Department of Energy’s decision to back off of the FutureGen project, the future of clean coal as a viable technology was looking smoky. Today, the skies cleared a bit, at least up North, when the Canadian Ministry of Natural Resources and the Alberta Ministry of Energy released a report calling for funding for clean coal projects and the incorporation of carbon capture and storage in Canada’s clear air regulations.

The report from the ‘Canada-Alberta ecoENERGY Carbon Capture and Storage Task Force’ identifies carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) as “vital to Canada’s future, and…a must-have for western Canada.” The report recommends that the Canadian government should undertake “urgent” actions, the first of which is to put C$2 billion ($2 billion) into CCS projects. The plan also calls for legislative and regulatory clarity on liability and ownership of CCS projects and explicit inclusion of CCS projects in carbon credit programs.

More than anything for the cleantech community in the U.S., the report stands in stark contrast to the Department of Energy’s recent decision and highlights the U.S. government’s missteps. And if the American government can’t offer the coal industry a stable partner in researching clean coal technologies, then perhaps our friendly neighbors to the north can.

The report, entitled “Canada’s Fossil Energy Future: The Way Forward on Carbon Capture and Storage,” estimates that if immediate action is taken, CCS could abate 40 percent of Canada’s projected GHG emissions in 2050. The task force is calling for quick and decisive action, aiming to get the first projects up and running by 2015.

If the Canadian government takes the report’s advice, the country could become the leading researcher in clean coal and carbon capture and sequestration technology. The recently jilted coal companies could move their CCS efforts north to work with a more stable dance partner who could be offering more federal funds and a binding legal framework ensuring the long-term government-industry partnership.