Articles in Category: Public Policy

Earth Day concept

Philip Steury/Adobe Stock

Today is Earth Day, whatever that means for you. For once, though, the politicians are not adding to greenhouse gas emissions by flying around the world first class or, worse, in private jets to talk shop.

Rather, they are gathering virtually.

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Earth Day news

According to The New York Times, they will hear President Joe Biden commit the United States to cutting CO2 emissions nearly in half by the end of the decade.

It’s a target that would require Americans to transform the way they drive, heat their homes and manufacture goods, the post reports.

Although the time frame is longer, the new goal nearly doubles the pledge that the Obama administration made to cut emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. It also builds on the UK’s ambitious plans announced earlier this week.

Nathan Hultman, director of the Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland, described the 50% goal as attainable. However, it will require “pretty significant action across all sectors of the American economy.”

Autos and energy generation are tipped as two of the major industries to feel the impact of the new target, if supported by new legislation.

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Unfortunately for all those who passionately support efforts by people like David Attenborough to force the world to confront climate change – regardless of where you stand on the issue on what is admittedly quite a wide platform – recent reports suggest we are now in the land of political signaling in environmental policy rather than earnest endeavor.

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UK makes major environmental policy shift (on paper, at least)

environmental policy

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As The Spectator reported yesterday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced that the government would enshrine in law the target of cutting the UK’s carbon emissions by 78% by 2035.

That’s 15 years earlier than originally planned.

Why today make Britain a world leader in tackling climate change? Largely, because it is a nice commitment to be announcing in the run-up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this year.

Ardent supporters of environmental issues, of course, welcome the news. However, it would require a lot of big lifestyle changes in terms of diet, transport and housing for the general public. Furthermore, left to government, it will cost both the state and individuals a lot of money.

Environmental policy in the US

Across the Atlantic, the Biden administration is in danger of going down the same road.

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electric vehicle charging

kinwun/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news: General Motors debuted its 2023 Cadillac LYRIQ electric vehicle; the House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill that seeks to open OPEC up to lawsuits for price collusion; and Texas is set to add a significant amount of utility-scale solar power.

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GM unveils Cadillac LYRIQ EV

General Motors previously announced plans to offer 30 new electric vehicle models by 2025.

This week, the automaker debuted its 2023 Cadillac LYRIQ electric vehicle.

“At launch, LYRIQ will be available with premier technologies and stirring performance capabilities enabled by the vehicle’s dedicated electric architecture,” GM said.

The vehciel features a 12-module, 100 kilowatt-hour battery pack and a rear-wheel-drive Ultium Platform deliver a Cadillac estimated 340 horsepower and 440 Nm of torque — and a Cadillac-estimated over 300 miles of range with a full charge.”

House panel takes aim at OPEC

The House Judiciary Committee this week passed a bill that seeks to open oil-producing alliance OPEC up to lawsuits for price collusion.

“The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, is an international cartel whose members deliberately collude to limit crude oil production as a means of fixing prices, unfairly driving up the price of crude oil to satisfy the greed of oil producers,” US Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said in a release. “Such behavior, if done by private companies, would be illegal per se under U.S. antitrust law.”

As a result, the committee moved to advance the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels (NOPEC) Act of 2021. The committee passed it via voice vote Tuesday, Reuters reported.

The bill seeks to empower the Justice Department to pursue antitrust enforcement actions against OPEC members.

Texas to add utility-scale solar power

A significant amount of solar power is going to come online over the next two years in Texas, the Energy Information Administration said.

Texas’ added 2.5 GW of solar capacity last year. That marked the beginning of a “solar boom” in the state, the EIA said.

The EIA forecast the state will add 4.6 GW of solar capacity in 2021. Furthermore, it forecast an additional 5.4 GW in 2022. The additions would bring total installed solar capacity in Texas to 14.9 GW, the EIA reported.

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China story steel production

Zhao Jiankang/AdobeStock

Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and the metals storylines here on MetalMiner:

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Week in Review, April 5-9 (steel capacity utilization, European steel’s challenges and more)

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This morning in metals news: the Aluminum Association this week called for reforms to the Section 232 exclusion process; meanwhile, Volvo Cars reported a record first quarter in sales; and, lastly, Chilean miner Codelco requested arbitration with Ecuador regarding the Llurimagua project.

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Aluminum Association calls for Section 232 exclusion reform

Aluminum production

Alexander Chudaev/Adobe Stock

Just over three years ago, former President Donald Trump used Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to institute tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

However, in addition to quotas and waivers for certain countries, domestic consumers could file for tariff exclusions with the Department of Commerce.

Meanwhile, this week, the Aluminum Association called for reforms to the Section 232 exclusion process.

“Three years after the implementation of the Section 232 tariffs on most aluminum imports into the U.S., it is time to take a fresh look at trade policy to support a robust domestic aluminum industry,” said Tom Dobbins, president and CEO of the Aluminum Association. “The Biden administration and the new Congress have an opportunity to harness the growth potential for aluminum as a sustainable solution for the 21st century, and capitalize on the more than $3 billion of private U.S. aluminum investment over the past decade. The federal government can take action immediately to put American aluminum on an equal footing with overseas competitors.”

Volvo touts record first quarter

Volvo Cars reported its best-ever first quarter for global sales.

Volvo’s sales surged by 40.8% year over year.

“In Europe and the US, the company managed to improve sales compared to the first quarter last year, while managing to cope with the ongoing effects of the pandemic,” the automaker said. “China has by now recovered from the impact of the pandemic, which was peaked in Q1 2020.”

Furthermore, Volvo’s March sales jumped by 62.3% year over year.

Chile’s Codelco seeks arbitration with Ecuador over Llurimagua project

Lastly, Chilean copper giant Codelco said it is seeking arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce with Ecuador.

Codelco said it is seeking compliance regarding agreements signed with the National Mining Company of Ecuador regarding the Llurimagua project. The project sits 80 kilometers from Ecuador’s capital, Quito.

In a release, Codelco said the parties agreed to definitive terms for the partnership in 2019. In addition, Codelco said it hoped the process will make it possible to reach an agreement for the “mutual benefit” of the parties.

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Greenland elections

sezerozger/Adobe Stock

The Rare Earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) fell by 1.9% for this month’s reading, as the Greenland elections this week could have significant ramifications for a rare earths project in the country.

April 2021 Rare Earths MMI chart

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Left-wing party against rare earths mine wins Greenland elections

Rare earths mining stood front and center in Greenland’s elections earlier this week.

The left-wing Inuit Ataqatigiit party emerged victorious with 37% of the vote, Reuters reported.

What does Greenland’s election have to do with rare earths? The prevailing party ran on opposition to a mining project at Kvanefjeld on the southern tip of the island.

On its website, Australia-based Greenland Minerals Ltd. says the complex could be the most significant source of rare earths in the Western world.

Kvanefjeld offers “massive bulk resources,” the firm indicates, in addition to access to year-round direct shipping.

However, the election result could prove to be a significant blow to the site’s prospects.

Reuters quoted party leader Mute Egede, who said the project “won’t happen.”

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This morning in metals news: the US Court of International Trade issued a Section 232-related ruling; General Motors announced the manufacturing locations of its first-ever Chevrolet Silverado electric pickup and GMC Hummer EV SUV; and, lastly, top copper producer Chile closed borders.

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USCIT rules in favor of plaintiff in Section 232 derivatives case

judge's gavel

beeboys/Adobe Stock1

The US Court of International Trade (USCIT) has typically rejected challenges to former President Donald Trump’s Section 232 tariffs.

This week, however, the court ruled in favor of a plaintiff who contested Trump’s expansion of the tariffs to cover steel and aluminum derivatives.

With Proclamation 9980 on Jan. 24, 2020, Trump expanded the Section 232 duties to cover steel and aluminum derivatives.

In this case, PrimeSource Building Products Inc. contested the duties.

“To declare Proclamation 9980 invalid, we must find ‘a clear misconstruction of the governing statute, a significant procedural violation, or action outside delegated authority,'” the USCIT explained. “Because the President issued Proclamation 9980 after the congressionally-delegated authority to adjust imports of the  products addressed in that proclamation had expired, Proclamation 9980 was action outside of delegated authority.”

The USCIT awarded summary judgment to PrimeSource on the second count of its complaint.

“As relief on this claim, we will declare Proclamation 9980 invalid as contrary to law and, on that basis, direct that the entries affected by this litigation be liquidated without the assessment of duties pursuant to Proclamation 9980, with refund of any deposits for such duty liability that may have been collected pursuant to Proclamation 9980,” the court stated in its conclusion.

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wind and solar electricity generation

lovelyday12/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news: US energy consumption fell by 7% in 2020; the United Steelworkers union commented on the details of President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan; and the aluminum price retraced last week.

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US energy consumption down 7% in 2020

Amid the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, US energy consumption fell by 7% in 2020, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported.

“Last year marked the largest annual decrease in U.S. energy consumption in both percentage and absolute terms in our consumption data series that dates back to 1949,” the EIA said. “Much of the 2020 decrease in energy use is attributable to economic responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in the United States during the spring of 2020.”

USW on American Jobs Plan

As we noted last week, the United Steelworkers union last week announced a strike at nine Allegheny Technologies Inc. facilities. The move could have significant ramifications for stainless steel buyers, should it linger.

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E.U. flag

Andrey Kuzmin/Adobe Stack

The European steel industry faces three major challenges, following the impacts of the COVID-19 global and the 2008-09 financial crisis, management consultancy McKinsey & Company stated.

“European steel producers should consider making a series of short-term operational and medium- to long- term strategic moves to ensure economic and environmental sustainability going forward,”
McKinsey said in its March 15 report, “The future of the European steel industry.”

“These strategic moves could encompass restructuring steps aimed at capacity reduction, steps toward strengthening the position of steel companies by diversifying their capabilities and sustainability moves toward low- and no-carbon steel,” McKinsey added.

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European steel needs to address overcapacity

The first move the sector needs to address is the increase in structural overcapacity. That is particularly true after a demand loss of between 5 million and 10 million metric tons demand loss as a result of the pandemic, the group stated.

“European steel players need to adjust overcapacity to be in sync with next normal steel demand,” McKinsey said.

Adjusting for a greener future

Steelmakers also need a short-term response to compensate for higher costs with profitability improvements and incremental measures that will reduce CO2 emissions. For example, they can do so by increasing the scrap rate, the report added.

Meanwhile, producers need to make investments with a view to medium- and long-term decarbonizing of the steel industry. In short, they should tailor long-term plans and technology choices towards CO2 neutrality, McKinsey noted.

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infrastructure

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President Joe Biden released details of the so-called American Jobs Plan, which among its stated goals aims to modernize infrastructure, revitalize manufacturing and create what it says will be “millions” of jobs.

The proposal will include an investment of approximately $2 trillion over the next 15 years, the White House said Wednesday.

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Aluminum in infrastructure

On the heels of the announcement, domestic metals associations weighed in on the Biden administration’s wide-ranging proposal.

The Aluminum Association applauded the news in general terms, emphasizing aluminum’s role in infrastructure development.

“We are pleased to see the Biden administration and the Congress focusing on infrastructure investment as the national priority that it is,” Aluminum Association President and CEO Tom Dobbins said. “Aluminum is an essential element to America’s infrastructure future – used widely in the electric grid, solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations and buildings of all kinds. Major investment will also provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to modernize the nation’s recycling infrastructure, vital to shoring up domestic aluminum supply chains and increasing manufacturing self-sufficiency.”

Dobbins added the Aluminum Association “stands ready to work with” the Biden administration and Congress on “investments that work for America’s vital aluminum manufacturing base.”

AISI supportive, but disagrees with funding

Meanwhile, in its own statement, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) also praised the administration’s focus on infrastructure.

However, the industry group expressed its disagreement with the funding mechanisms in the proposal.

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