On his way from Edmonton to Red Deer, Robin Campbell is thinking about the road ahead for Canada’s coal industry. He knows it’s far from smooth, yet he displays the kind of gritty determination typical of so many Albertans.
Coal, he says, remains part of the world’s energy mix. And steel-making coal will continue to be an important Canadian export as long as the world…well, needs steel.
Campbell, a former Alberta environment minister – and, incidentally, a 4th generation miner who spent nearly 30 years in the coal industry – is the new president of the Coal Association of Canada.
On this day he’s travelling to Red Deer to meet with union representatives. It’s about their members, their jobs, their livelihoods.
Campbell says his mission is to preserve jobs in the industry and to work with governments to play a positive role in fighting climate change. The challenge, he says, is demonstrating how coal has a role to play in the global energy mix and to invest in technologies that have the potential to drastically reduce emissions.
“So we’d like to see the government, especially in Canada, up the ante in research and technology and do a better job of retrofitting plants, patenting that technology and selling it worldwide to developing countries so that they can continue to develop, which is positive for everybody – but do so with much lower emissions.
“India has 240 to 300 million people without power. They’re going to do what they have to do to get that power to their citizens,” he says.
As a former mine worker, union official and cabinet minister, Campbell understands the challenges and issues facing the coal industry. However, the nations of the world, he says, will always need steel, always need affordable and reliable energy. And now, more than ever, Canada needs those tens of thousands of well-paying jobs, direct and indirect, that depend on Canadian coal.