Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has allocated more of the federal government's $1.5-billion environmental fund by giving almost $200 million to British Columbia projects such as a so-called $quot;hydrogen highway$quot; of recharging stations for fuel cells.

Harper made the announcement at the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Canada headquarters at the University of British Columbia. The national industry association works to raise awareness of Canada's hydrogen and fuel cell industry and promote the economic, environmental and social benefits of the technology. $quot;Hydrogen fuel cells have the potential to produce energy much more efficiently than the conventional internal combustion engine,$quot; Harper said. $quot;They run almost silently, best of all their only by-product is water vapour.$quot;

Canada is recognized as a leader in fuel cell and hydrogen technology, with private companies investing about $200 million a year in research and development. The money Harper announced is also for projects aimed at the extraction of energy from wood waste, providing electricity to remote rural areas now fuelled by diesel and for new geothermal and bioenergy projects.

The B.C. money under the Canada Ecotrust program follows earlier funding announcements to Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, totalling more than $1 billion.