From Triple E to C Shrinking America's carbon footprint

Feb 24, 2009 | 06:07 AM |

It may be hard to believe that any industry is beating expectations these days, but the steel industry is—at least in terms of shrinking its carbon footprint. What's more, it has had a big hand in helping customers reduce their own energy use.

Less than two decades ago, the Kyoto Protocol—which the United States has not ratified—set the then-ambitious goal of having the U.S. reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent by 2012 from the base year of 1990.

By 2007, the latest year for which complete data is available, the American steel industry already had reduced the energy used to produce each ton of steel by a dramatic 33 percent.

Because of the close relationship between energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, the industry's aggregate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per ton of steel produced also have been reduced substantially. For example, in the early 1980s steelmakers in the U.S. consumed 37.8 gigajoules (GJ) of energy per ton of steel produced; by 2005, America's steel industry had lowered the average energy used to 11.5 GJ per ton. The resulting reduction of CO2 equivalents from this improvement in energy efficiency was 230,000 tonnes. The steel industry achieved this extraordinary performance with a combination of capital and material utilization improvements specifically through technological advances, which increased the use of scrap.

While the news that the domestic steel industry is the only major manufacturing sector to reduce its carbon footprint so substantially during this timeframe can come as quite a surprise to the environmental community, it can be a shock for regulators, legislators and consumers to learn that this was done at the same time that it increased production. The accomplishment is one in which the steel industry can take great pride and is evidence of why a ton of steel made in the U.S. is good for the environment, especially when compared to steel manufacturing in some other regions of the world.....

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