“Novelis Invests $48M in Automotive Aluminum Scrap Recycling Facility” – Environmental Leader, 30 January 2015

Last month, Novelis revealed that it has invested $48 million in its automotive aluminum scrap recycling facility. Novelis, the world’s largest flat-rolled aluminum maker, has recently entered the automotive industry by producing parts for auto companies that are shifting from steel to all-aluminum bodies. Novelis currently produces the aluminum that is used for the body and engines in Ford F-150 trucks.

The automotive aluminum scrap recycling facility employs a “closed loop” system, which will allow Novelis to reuse 20 million pounds of scrap every month. When the company manufactures aluminum coil, around 40% of the coil remains from the parts. Using the closed loop system, Novelis will gather the scrap and bring it back to the factory floor, where it will be reused again.

US automakers have been required to switch from steel to aluminum to comply with President Obama’s mandate that new cars must double their fuel economies by 2025. Ford F-150′s are now lighter — aluminum parts have already advanced the trucks’ fuel efficiency by 30 percent. Ford is slated to manufacture 850,000 of the trucks, which will call for 350,000 tons of aluminum sheeting.

In order to fill the supply gap for the automotive aluminum sheet market, several US and global producers have announced building of either greenfield construction or brownfield  expansions — mostly in new Detroit and southern states like Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

This trend will provide several business challenges and opportunities to gather, sort, and manufacture aluminum sheet alloys from recycled post-consumer scrap, including UBC, and will hopefully use recycle-friendly alloys.

(From Environmental Leader)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 8, 2015

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“GOP oil titan: Keystone’s irrelevant” – Politico, 14 November 2014

Though the Keystone XL pipeline has been a hot-button issue with environmentalists, it seems that it has become an irrelevant discussion. The pipeline was introduced in 2005, and still no decision has been made about its construction. In October, the House approved a bill that would authorize the pipeline; however, a few days later, the bill failed to pass through the Senate. If it had passed, the bill would have gone directly to President Obama, though it’s likely he would have vetoed it.

But all that might change when the new Republican-majority Congress reconvenes in January. In fact, it has become the mission of Republican Senator Mitch McConnell (KY) to have the bill pass. It’s probable that the bill will pass both Congress legislatures, but the bill will need 67 votes in favor in order to quash a presidential veto.

Regardless of the pipeline’s importance, proponents firmly contend that the $8 billion pipeline will allow for a flood of new jobs and bolster North American energy independence; but opponents believe that it will increase fossil fuels and further incite the effects of climate change.

It seems like the oil industry has moved on from Keystone; oil companies are employing other pipelines to carry their oil. Furthermore, the US now has an abundance of oil, which has reduced prices. Bringing more oil in from Canada doesn’t seem like the best plan.

What some suggest — like Harold Hamm, the CEO of Oklahoma’s Continental Resources — is that the US should end its crude oil export ban, which would make the oil market fairer for US oil companies. Congress imposed the ban in the 1970s due to the worry that we were becoming too reliant on foreign oil. Now that US oil prices have dropped, Saudi Arabia is attempting to undercut our prices so that it can recover what it has lost in the market. Further, a lift on the ban could help Ukraine and European countries that are under the thumb of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Conversely, if the ban is lifted, we could see gas prices soar; lawmakers would become our scapegoat.

(From Politico)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

November 29, 2014

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Coal Production is Increasing in Western Kentucky

Western Kentucky’s coal production has picked up again, as we see mines employing new workers. In general, production is growing across the state, though it is decreasing in Eastern Kentucky.

In 2013, production in Eastern Kentucky decreased while Western Kentucky skyrocketed by 90 percent since 2003. According to Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet, production was dropping in Western Kentucky due to the area’s high concentration of sulphur; however, mines in Western Kentucky have since installed scrubbers, which cleanse the coal of pollutants and, in turn, have increased production.

According to the most recent Kentucky Quarterly Coal Report, which includes production from July through September, Kentucky generated 19.9 million tons during the three month period.

For the past three quarters, total Kentucky coal production has increased; but while Western mines’ production have risen by 5.2%, Eastern mines’ production has fallen by 4.3%. Analysts anticipate that production from the coal basin, including Western Kentucky, will see an upsurge in the following 25 years.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

December 2, 2014

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“Election Results Make U.S. Congress Action on Climate Change Even Less Likely” – National Geographic, 5 November 2014

A Republican-held Congress could spell bigger trouble for President Obama’s push for new climate policy. Republican Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell has long been an opponent of Obama’s climate efforts, namely because McConnell represents a state where a majority of its jobs begin and end with coal. McConnell has sullied Obama’s efforts to curb climate change by dubbing new climate policy a “war on coal.” A quarter of Kentucky’s counties continue to mine coal. Coal is a low-cost source of energy, which, according to McConnell, powers 90 percent of the state’s electricity.

Republicans argue two points when it comes to climate change: one, that scientists are wrong in their contention that humans are largely to blame for climate change; and two, jobs are more important than the effects of climate change. Moreover, some Senate Democrats haven’t backed Obama’s policy; the resistance from both parties has caused Obama to employ executive action to introduce new emissions regulations for power plants. The EPA has announced those regulations, which instruct states to create their own plans for restraining power plants emissions.

According to the Obama Administration’s 2014 National Climate Assessment, humans have had a large influence on the changing climate, and power plants are the “single-largest concentrated source of emissions, accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.” Two-thirds of the US’s electricity comes from fossil fuels, and 39 percent of that comes from coal-burning power plants.

In addition to the Obama Administration, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has also cautioned that permanent effects could result from climate change, including surface warming, polar ice cap melting, sea levels rising, and severe heat waves.

McConnell’s plan is to stall any new climate legislation in the Senate, whether it’s new restrictions on limiting the impacts of climate change, or regulations devised by Obama. McConnell has also assured that he will not hesitate to cut the EPA’s budget.

Almost all of the McConnell’s more than twenty fellow Republicans who are looking to run for the White House in 2016 — Senator Rand Paul (KY), Rep. Paul Ryan (WI), Senator Marc Rubio (FL), Senator Ted Cruz (TX), and Governor Rick Perry (TX) just to name a few — all doubt scientists’ findings that climate change is a result of human action. Conversely, Hillary Clinton’s beliefs fall more in line with Obama, which is to be expected.

According to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of Americans believe that the Earth has warmed during the last few decades; 40 percent of those polled believe that it’s human caused. The question of jobs remains a huge issue in Kentucky and across the US. Republicans — who traditionally favor less government involvement — rely on the fear that increased governmental regulation means a drop in job growth.

Of course, McConnell’s coined phraseology ‘war on coal’ carries weight with his constituents. Last year, coal production dropped in eastern Kentucky, seeing its lowest production output since 1962. McConnell associates the fall in Kentucky’s coal production to the US’s explosion in natural gas generation, as well as less costly mining in states like Wyoming. Kentuckians and McConnell are currently concentrating on job loss and growth, and not on how to protect the environment from its own inhabitants.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

November 5, 2014

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