As part of the global energy transition, political and business leaders are considering a future in which coal plays a role in non-energy, technology-forward applications. One of the most influential international groups mapping this future will be advised by a CEO who believes coal may one day become too valuable to burn.

This week Randall Atkins, chairman and CEO of Ramaco Resources, Inc. and carbon technology company Ramaco Carbon, was appointed to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Coal Industry Advisory Board (CIAB). The CIAB advises the IEA on coal-related policies and projects around the world.

On the board, Atkins will not only represent the U.S. coal industry, but also advocate for the international development of alternative uses for coal, such as replacing petroleum as a cheaper, more environmental feedstock in advanced materials such as carbon fiber, graphene, and graphite, a critical material in the manufacture of electric vehicle batteries. His membership was advanced by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and approved by the White House.

The IEA is a Paris-based intergovernmental organization that provides policy recommendations, analysis and data on the entire global energy sector. The CIAB was established in 1979 to create deeper expertise at the IEA on the wide range of worldwide issues relating to coal. Its members comprise a group of high-level coal industry executives from the countries accounting for as much as 80% of world coal production and consumption, including the U.S., China, Germany, Brazil and Australia. Members are nominated by their host governments and appointed by the IEA.

“We have been working with the DoE’s national laboratories, strategic industry peers, regulatory agencies and environmental stakeholders for many years to develop and advance a new direction for coal. A role that places it at the center of technological advances and environmental solutions,” Atkins said. “I am excited to join this group of influential global leaders to continue developing ways for industry to benefit from this vital and abundant natural resource.”

“Randy Atkins brings invaluable expertise and insight to the IEA’s Coal Industry Advisory Board,” said Katie Sweeney, Executive Vice President and COO of National Mining Association. “Randy not only has his feet firmly planted in the coal marketplace, with a world-class understanding of the ongoing importance of coal to the world’s energy, manufacturing and infrastructure needs. But he’s also a leader in exploring new uses for coal, such as a source of critical minerals, as well as the burgeoning coal-to-products market. Randy is an excellent addition to the Board and brings just the type of innovative perspective that will help inform how the IEA thinks about coal today and its potential tomorrow.”

Besides founding metallurgical coal producer Ramaco Resources, Atkins also leads Ramaco Carbon, a vertically integrated carbon technology company that is helping pioneer “coal to products” research and development. It is partnered with two of the DoE’s largest national laboratories — Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the National Energy Technology Laboratory — on advanced research into the development and commercialization of coal-based carbon products and materials, and is at the forefront of exploring coal’s use as a source of critical minerals. The company has research facilities in Wyoming and West Virginia.

Atkins was previously Chairman of the Department of Energy’s National Coal Council, a Federal Advisory Committee to the U.S. Secretary of Energy. He chaired a task force that issued a white paper to former Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in 2019 on advanced uses for coal, including in the manufacture of many forms of carbon products and materials, titled “Coal in a New Carbon Age.”

He has testified before both the U.S. Senate Energy Committee and the House of Representatives’ Natural Resource Committee on the subject of national coal policy and uses for coal in manufacturing advanced carbon products and materials. He has been involved in various energy industries for more than 40 years, and is also a member of the Board of Directors of the National Mine Association.