Photo from Caleb Kenna
The production of steel in the United States is much better for the environment than the Chinese steel when comparing the environmental footprint. From greenhouse gases to energy intensity to recycled-content to regulations, American steel is the greener option of the two. Lots of people are talking about steel nowadays. From the Recovery Act to proposals for car trade-ins, the United States government is demanding everyone from contractors to manufacturers only use indigenous steel. Policies pushed forward to protect the metal is not a new issue. Voices from Congress and the White House were loud seven years ago calling for the 2002 United States steel tariff that President Bush placed on imported steel in March 2002. He later lifted it in late 2003.
The land of the free and the brave isn’t the steel giant it once was – ranking fourth in the world for production in 2007. China has taken the top position by creating more than twice as much of the material than any other country or region - the European Union is the second largest producer.
Clean Metal by Design
Though the move toward mandatory regulations for US steel has been primarily to sustain both jobs and a manufacturing sector in the country, policy makers may have stumbled on a way to make the planet cleaner. Steel production in China creates 5 times more sulfer dioxide, 18 times more particulate matter and 3 times more nitrogen oxides per ton of steel than that of production in the United States.
Graphic from Alliance for American Manufacturing
Moreover, carbon emissions for each ton made in China are twice that of their American counterparts. The American steel industry has worked hard to cut their environmental footprint. The reduction of greenhouse gases means industry has surpassed Kyoto target by 240%. Plus, the Chinese companies can expect smaller fines for non-compliance of environmental standards for the iron-based resource from their centralized governments. The maximum fine in China is $14,000.00 compared to $450,000.00 in the United States.
Lighter on the Planet
There are other green aspects of the United States steel industry. The sector has shown great improvements with energy efficiency over the last decade while increasing the amount of recycled contain in all products. Steel is the most recyclable and recycled material in North America, with an overall recycling rate of 66%. In 2006, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported a 28% improvement in energy intensity achieved since the 1990’s. Though the call for native steel isn’t necessarily because of the environment, it will benefit nevertheless.
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