Coal in the Age of the Oil Sands


While Alberta’s oil sands are the focus of much scholarly and political attention, coal, as Piper argues in this article, has also played an important role in the Canadian province’s history. Once essential to Alberta’s economy, the coal industry declined in the post-World War Two period, rebounding by the early 1970s thanks to government support. This renaissance coincided with the emergence of a new environmentalist consciousness in Alberta, in part focused on the effects of strip mining for coal. Tensions between capitalist growth and environmental protection played out in public hearings on resource development, whose outcomes focused on land reclamation to the exclusion of regulating other harmful aspects of coal mining—thereby enabling continued development and ecological harm. However, new political and economic circumstances suggest that there is reason to wonder if this may change.