Friday, April 17, 2009

Iron and coke and chromium steel

Didn't catch this earlier... but the March Site Selection magazine features Consol's new Pittsburgh headquarters. See: Job One: Capture Mobile Workers

Speaking of coal though... I am sure folks have noticed the print and TV media campaign featuring Braddock's John Fetterman. The ads look to be placed by the Environmental Defense Action Fund with the theme: Carbon Caps = Jobs. Quite a new level of exposure for him to be the star of a national media buy.

It's a funny thing though how steel demand is impacted by energy and environmental issues. Remember US Steel once bought Marathon oil, probably with profit made from selling steel pipe to the oil industry. Even though they then moved the company's headquarters to Houston they wanted us to call the Steel Building the USX building, a moniker still in use today since "600 Grant Street" wouldn't stick.

Now US Steel's Edgar Thompson plant in Braddock is the rump of the region's heavy industry, and by the choice of Fetterman it is also the symbol being highlighted in the media campaign supporting carbon cap legislation. Yet Edgar Thompson is an integrated steel plant dependent entirely on coke... in particular coke from US Steel's nearby Clairton Coke Works. Coke being nothing more than baked coal and coke plants are inevitably some of dirtier industrial operations there are. Remember it's the infamous Liberty Monitor located in Clairton that is always driving local environmental metrics out of whack because it sits in the footprint of the coke batteries' plume... so it all just comes out a bit peculiar how these issues are linked in the ads. But the imagery is pretty impactful.

All that being said, the recent news that the $billion+ upgrade of the Clairton Coke Works is being deferred is probably the single worst bit of economic news for the region resulting from the recession. Not just for the jobs it entails, but also for the environmental improvement that investment was going to bring. I wonder a bit how much closing of the LTV Coke batteries in Hazelwood a decade ago has impacted the all of the region's recent riverfront development in the intervening years. The irony is that in the fight to keep that plant open, or for a new owner to reopen it, the local steel workers were typically fighting against greater environmental restriction. At the end of the day it was a lot of jobs that were lost as well. For more on that it is worth rereading what CMU's Joel Tarr once wrote: The plume is gone. But we can't forget Hazelwood.

and apologies to Billy Joel.


Blogger n'at said...

Years ago, if the the spoils of heavy industry couldn't be buried onsite or belched into the air, then it was deposited into the rivers.

Before there was an EPA or enforcement - which came later - there was common sense, or as some like to call environmental stewardship.

Koppers had it. Way before USX or anyone else were forced to react to environmental policy, Koppers was cleaning up there own mess. When federal policy was finally enacted and enforced, Koppers was able to shop out their services for cleaning up or mitigating other's messes. Hundreds of scientists and technicians developing bugs to break down the nastiest of the nasties. Good stuff, right?

Too bad, though. That division of Koppers has been dissolved for a while. A byproduct of mergers, acquisitions and the like.

However, there's plenty of money to be shifted from one government policy to this one. Just depends on whose wishlist these projects are on.

Friday, April 17, 2009 7:54:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home