Obama and Harper Establish Clean Energy Dialogue

OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada, February 19, 2009 (ENS) – President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced plans to collaborate on a new clean energy economy as a key element of broader economic recovery and reinvestment efforts between the United States and Canada.

“I value our strategic partnership with Canada and look forward to working closely with the Prime Minister to address the global economic recession and create jobs, to protect our environment through promoting clean energy technologies, and achieve our shared goals in responding to international security challenges,” said President Obama at a press conference in the Reading Room at Parliament in Ottawa.

“The President and I agree that both our countries must take immediate action to restore economic growth by lowering taxes, ensuring access to credit and unleashing spending that stimulates economic growth. We also agreed to strengthen our cooperation in the areas of environmental protection and global security,” said Prime Minister Harper.

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper discuss clean energy in Ottawa. (Photo courtesy Office of the Prime Minister)

Noting the history of bilateral co-operation on continental environmental protection and energy trade and technology, the two leaders agreed that environmental protection and the development of clean energy are inextricably linked. They agreed to collaborate on high-return opportunities for expanded and new joint research.

“We are establishing a U.S.-Canada clean energy dialogue which commits senior officials from both countries to collaborate on the development of clean energy science and technologies that will reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change,” Harper said.

“How we produce and use energy is fundamental to our economic recovery, but also our security and our planet,” Obama said. “And we know that we can’t afford to tackle these issues in isolation. And that’s why we’re updating our collaboration on energy to meet the needs of the 21st century.”

“The clean energy dialogue that we’ve established today will strengthen our joint research and development,” the President said. “It will advance carbon reduction technologies and it will support the development of an electric grid that can help deliver the clean and renewable energy of the future to homes and businesses, both in Canada and the United States. And through this example, and through continued international negotiations, the United States and Canada are committed to confronting the threat posed by climate change.”

President Obama and Prime Minister Harper take questions from the media. (Photo courtesy Office of the Prime Minister)

The United States and Canada are already collaborating on energy research related to advanced biofuels, clean engines, and energy efficiency.

The leaders signed a document today stating that the new clean energy dialogue will focus on carbon capture and storage technology, which they said “holds enormous potential to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions as we use our own energy resources to power our economy.”

To spur rapid progress in this critical technology, the two nations will coordinate research and demonstrations of carbon capture and sequestration technology at coal-fired plants.

“This will build on our experience with the North Dakota-Weyburn project,” the leaders’ statement says. This project pipes carbon dioxide from a North Dakota synfuels plant to a Saskatchewan oilfield 320 kilometers away and injects the greenhouse gas to enhance oil recovery. The project is expected to store about 22 million tons of CO2 and produce 130 million barrels of oil over 20 years.

To fund this part of the collaboration, the United States will draw from the $3.4 billion for carbon capture and storage demonstration provided in the newly enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Canada’s Economic Action Plan establishes a $1 billion Clean Energy Fund which builds on the Canada’s previous investments in carbon capture and sequestration.

“A strengthened U.S.-Canada partnership on carbon sequestration will help accelerate private sector investment in commercial scale, near-zero-carbon coal facilities to promote climate and energy security,” according to the leaders’ statement.

President Obama listens as Prime Minister Harper answers a reporter’s question at the news conference. (Photo by Paul Souza courtesy The White House)

The two nations will consult and share information on the demonstration and deployment of smart grid technology, including installing smart meters in residential and commercial buildings, digitizing distribution systems, and employing information and measurement tools to manage the grid more effectively.

To fund this part of the collaboration, the United States will draw from the $11 billion for smart grid technology and transmission investment in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

To build a bigger grid, the United States and Canada will share analysis of new transmission options for integrating wind power and other clean generation sources and encourage development of a grid stakeholders group, building on the existing U.S.-Canadian collaboration among the states and provinces.

These investments are expected to make electricity delivery more reliable, reduce congestion that can lead to blackouts and power losses, enable consumers to use energy more efficiently, and promote broader development of renewable power.

In advance of President Obama’s visit, Michael Ignatieff, the MP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, wrote in the “National Post” newspaper a piece that included his vision for an environmental partnership between Canada and the United States.

“Our environmental partnership should extend into the far north. Canada and the United States should work together, with other northern nations, to protect this region for the whole globe,” Ignatieff wrote.

“We should applaud the President’s campaign commitment not to undertake drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We should maintain Canada’s long-held legal position that the North West Passage is an inland waterway and not an international strait, but we should not allow our disagreement with the Americans on the issue to preclude bilateral efforts to ensure good stewardship and orderly management by Canadians of passage through the waterway,” he wrote.

“We need to reinvigorate the Arctic Council so that all northern nations develop common strategies to mitigate the impact of global warming, avoid conflict over resource development and improve the lives of the region’s indigenous peoples.”

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