New Report: Steel Industry Found to Cause As Much Pollution as 569 Coal Power Plants

Nucor, Skanska Need to Shift to 100% Clean Energy Steel

Today, a first of its kind new report analyzing the opportunities for the steel sector to take climate action is being released by global campaign organization Mighty Earth. The report shows that no company is better positioned to radically change the steel sector than America’s largest steel producer, Nucor (NUE). Just a few weeks after Hurricane Florence devastated Nucor’s home state of North Carolina and caused the company to temporarily shut down some facilities, the report, Cold Steel, Hot Climate: America’s Biggest Untapped Clean Energy Opportunity argues that if Nucor commits to 100 percent clean energy for its electricity, the company will benefit by gaining a competitive edge while reducing its carbon footprint.

Nucor is the largest steel producer in the United States and calls itself “America’s largest recycler,” controlling approximately 29% of the U.S. steel market. The production method (Electric Arc Furnace or EAF) used by the company consumes massive amounts of electricity, and Mighty Earth sees an opportunity for Nucor to transition to clean energy in the 25 states where it operates.    

“There is a clear business case for Nucor to embrace a serious transition to clean energy,” said Margaret Hansbrough, campaign director and report author at Mighty Earth. “The cost of clean energy has plummeted and is increasingly cheaper than fossil fuels. If Nucor wants to remain competitive and stay on top in a global economy where the race is on for countries and companies to pursue the lowest carbon opportunities for growth, then it has to think about what comes next, and clean energy steel is next. If the company acts now to stay ahead of the curve by pursuing cheap, reliable, clean energy resources it could gain a big advantage in the marketplace.”

According to the report, 68 percent of American steel is produced using the same EAF method that Nucor uses and globally that number is 30 percent and growing. Steel, an inherently carbon-intensive material, is the leading source of industrial emissions on the planet. The industry produces approximately 2.3 gigatons of CO2 emissions each year equivalent to the annual emissions of 569 coal-fired power plants.

While not all of the steel industry’s emissions can be mitigated by transitioning to clean energy for the industry’s grid sourced electricity, the report highlights ways other steel companies are already decarbonizing through other innovations. In its report, Mighty Earth calls upon the entire steel industry to shift toward clean energy and carbon neutrality by investing in additional methods of reducing climate pollution, such as methane reductions and conservation.

“Nucor’s customers like Skanska, and other construction companies, are looking for ways they can meet their own climate commitments, so Nucor would be missing a huge opportunity if it doesn’t deliver clean energy steel to the marketplace,” said Glenn Hurowitz, CEO of Mighty Earth. “Nucor’s number one priority doesn’t have to be climate change to want to meet the demands of its customers and adjust their practices to do so.”

In nearly every state where Nucor operates, there are clean energy procurement options available. Companies like GM, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and more than 100 others have already committed to sourcing 100 percent clean energy and are accelerating the greening of the grid. Another steelmaker, Evraz Steel, recently signed a major clean energy deal with Xcel Energy in Pueblo, Colorado.

“Increasing the use of clean energy is one of the quickest ways to reduce air pollution and grow the local economy at the same time,” said June Blotnick, executive director of Clean Air Carolina. “North Carolina is still reeling from a hurricane that was made more intense and destructive by climate change. Decades of coal ash contamination were exacerbated in the aftermath of the storm. We need better solutions now, and committing to 100% clean energy is an obvious win for Nucor and communities the company operates in. It’s a win, win, win issue. It will make Nucor more competitive, grow our local clean energy economy, and give North Carolinians cleaner air, cleaner water, and healthier communities.”

Nucor has not yet made a commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions or to transition its electricity consumption to clean energy. For more information on Mighty Earth’s analysis, go to: www.mightyearth.org/steel