Before we head into the long Labor Day weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was in the world of metals.
Automakers released August sales reports, mostly showing sales remain down compared with 2019 levels.
Meanwhile, for the week ending Aug. 29, U.S. steel mills’ capacity utilization fell compared with the previous week, interrupting an extended stretch of weekly capacity increases.
In other news, President Donald Trump took aim at steel imports from Brazil and Mexico. With respect to Brazil, Trump opted to cut Brazil’s semi-finished steel quota for the remainder of the year down to 60,000 tons from 350,000 tons.
A recent article in the Financial Times — penned, it must be said by the president of Eurometaux, the European Association of non-ferrous metals producers — should not be dismissed as just a PR attempt to lobby Brussels.
The arguments made are repeated across the European metals sector. The arguments nod to social trends supported across the region to tackle climate change issues while trying to protect jobs and local economies.
Europe may not be able to set the world’s agenda. Collectively, however, the E.U. can set Europe’s agenda. In so doing, it can set an example other countries are already showing some interest in adopting.
Lost market share
As the post points out, since the 2008 financial crisis, Europe has lost a third of its primary aluminum production. Meanwhile, China has grown to produce some 60% of the world’s market.
Europe has lost market share for other base metals, too, missing the early boat for the cobalt, lithium and rare earths (used in electric cars).
Like the U.S., Europe has come to realize its dependency on foreign countries for strategic resources comes at its peril.
“The era of a conciliatory or naive Europe that relies on others to look after its interests is over,” Thierry Breton, the E.U. industry commissioner, is quoted by the Financial Times as saying.
Mining and refining in Europe has slashed its collective carbon footprint by more than 60% in the past two decades due to far higher and better-enforced standards in the region. Yet, not surprisingly, Europe’s metals sector cannot compete with subsidized imports from China and other regions.
A level playing field
But drawing on parallel commitments to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the region’s industry is making the case for creating a level playing field. That level playing would come not simply by imposing quotas but by applying a financial cost to imports that come with significantly higher carbon and environmental costs.
The wider industry is buying into the idea of products having a lower carbon footprint as a brand strength.
The LME is launching a low-carbon aluminum spot contract to promote and facilitate growing demand for metal with a definable carbon footprint.
Some producers are already onboard.
Rusal is at the forefront of promoting its primary metal as coming wholly from renewable (hydroelectric) sources. European metals producers may not have such a clear advantage in terms of power supply. However, a combination of technologies, practices and power sources means each ton of metal Europe produces emits on average eight times less carbon than its equivalent from China.
The industry wants the E.U. establish a coherent framework to assess, regulate and penalize imports that do not meet the same level of environmental responsibility. That could include a carbon tax on imports that would help level the playing field.
Ultimately, consumers always pay for taxes. However, at least this approach may have the benefit of helping to ensure a sustainable regional metals industry. It could encourage producers elsewhere to lower their environmental impact. Furthermore, it could reduce the supply chain risk of a growing dependence on countries like China that play by a different set of rules.
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The virtual conference by the India-headquartered ISA will showcase state-of-the-art, next-generation technologies to ramp up solar deployment affordably.
By the numbers
The likely capital size of the World Solar Bank would be U.S. $10 billion. ISA officials said the country that would request to host the headquarters of the bank would have to contribute 30% of the proposed capital.
“A global competition would be held among the member countries to decide who will have the bank’s headquarters,” the ISA official was quoted as saying by the Business Standard.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to attend the inaugural event. In addition, along ministers from all ISA member countries and other R&D institutions from around the world would attend.
The summit will be divided into four technical sessions. Well-known companies and research organizations in the green energy space will present their work and deliberate on solar technology trends.
Photovoltaic technology development and its future;
Recent advances, including conversion efficiency improvements and declining costs in PV modules and storage
Disruptive solar technologies for grid application – ground-mounted, floating or on residential and commercial rooftops
solar beyond the power sector
One of the aims of the World Solar Bank is to bring together global resources to fund solar power projects in ISA member countries.
The ISA came together in 2015 during the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. The alliance, a partnership of solar resource-rich countries, currently has 121 countries as members.
Most of the participating countries are from Africa, Southeast Asia and Europe. Pakistan and China are not members of the ISA.
While speaking at the curtain raiser for the summit to be hosted by ISA next month, Indian Minister of State for Power R.K. Singh pointed solar energy is the future and technology would drive its down.
A few days ago, Modi reiterated the “One Sun, One World, One Grid” (OSOWOG) plan. The plan call for a transnational electricity grid supplying solar power across the globe, first announced in 2018.
M. Stanley Whittingham will deliver the keynote address.He will be joined by John B. Goodenough and Akira Yoshino. The trio won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of lithium-ion batteries.
This past week’s metals news covered everything from silver price movements to the copper price rise’s slowdown to the reimposition of tariffs on some Canadian aluminum.
We also broke down President Donald Trump’s recent proclamation with respect to reimposing the Section 232 tariff on some Canadian aluminum. MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns delved into the concern expressed by Ontario Premier Doug Ford: could Trump target Canadian steel next?
As our readers know well by now, Trump imposed Section 232 tariffs on imported steel and aluminum of 25% and 10%, respectively, in 2018. During the course of negotiations with Canada and Mexico over the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — the successor to NAFTA — the U.S. rescinded the tariffs in May 2019.
Now, at least for unalloyed aluminum from Canada, the tariff is back.
In this month’s Automotive Monthly Metals Index (MMI) report: Ford CEO Jim Hackett will retire, the company announced this week; General Motors has plans to add more than 2,700 electric vehicle charging stations across the U.S.; and U.S. sales continue to show signs of recovery, but July sales remained down compared with a year ago.
The Automotive Monthly Metals Index (MMI) gained 2.4% for this month’s MMI reading.
Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the metals storylines here on MetalMiner, including coverage of silver prices, LME off-warrant stocks, cobalt-free lithium-ion batteries and more:
This morning in metals news: the Chinese province of Henan will raise its fees for steel and cement producers that do not meet low-emissions targets; BMO says the copper concentrate market will tighten this year; and the Oyu Tolgoi project took another step forward this past week.