“India Looks to New Policies to Promote Scrap Metal Recycling” – Metal Miner, 23 February 2015

India’s recycling rate is the one of the lowest in the world, hovering around 25%, while the US’s rate has climbed, now sitting at 90%. India’s recycling rate remains poor because the government is fairly indifferent, and because the population is unaware of the advantages of recycling. The country’s low recycling rate is a stressor on India’s primary production — constantly having to manufacture primary metals instead of recycling scrap has weakened India’s natural resources.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s main objective is to push India’s government to become generally proactive and organizations are beginning to take notice. The Metal Recycling Association of India has petitioned the government to create and enforce a metal recycling policy. Recently, there was a 2015 Metal Recycling Association of Indian International Conference in Mumbai, where the participants detailed what they believe India’s government should do to boost scrap recycling, including, “Remove the basic import duty of 5% on steel scrap, give it industry status, subsidize lending rates, allow Foreign Direct Investment and increase financing facilities,” which would make scrap recycling more attractive to bigger companies.

India is growing as a leader in the motor vehicles industries — the country is seventh-largest in the automobile industry and second-largest in two-wheeled vehicles, like scooters and motorcycles. Having a fluid recycling practice would let those industries develop even more in India. Currently, India’s stainless steel factories utilize 53% scrap in their manufacturing processes, while US factories use 76%.

For developing country like India with culture of “nothing goes wasted,” it is imperative that India extrapolates her recycling from “personal ” to “industrial.” India should look to developed countries to further understand how to advance its recycling system, so that it may take advantage of secondary materials, rather than constantly having to create primary materials, a harmful practice for the country.

(From Metal Miner)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 3, 2015

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“GM planning strict diet for new pickup trucks” – Reuters, 18 July 2013

In order to remain in competition with rival Ford Motor, General Motors is planning to scale down the weight of its full-size pickup trucks by employing more aluminum from manufacturers like Alcoa and Novelis.

GM’s 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra are 250-400 pounds lighter than previous models, but Ford’s 2015 F-150 is anticipated to drop at least 700 pounds. It isn’t likely that GM will be able to apply a similar weight reduction so soon, as the Silverado and Sierra have just been redesigned; an overhaul can’t begin until 2019.

Such weight reductions will go to vastly improving the fuel economy of both companies’ trucks; better engineered engines and transmission will also help to curb fuel consumption. GM intends to opt out of conventional steel, instead using lighter materials, such as aluminum and composites.

Both GM and Ford pickup trucks are beneficial to both companies’ bottom line, and stand for almost 10% of all US automobile sales; individually, per-vehicle, the trucks allow for a profit of at least $12,000. It is rumored that, in late 2014, GM will present a special aluminum-intensive redesign of the Silverado: 250 pounds lighter and a 20% improved fuel economy.

As both companies begin to introduce their lightweight models, they have to keep in mind that truck customers don’t want lose the power of their vehicles; but both companies will also have to adhere to new federal fuel economy standards that will begin to intensify in 2017. In 2017, lights trucks will need to average around 29 miles per gallon; by 2025, light trucks will need to average almost 40 mpg.

Alcoa is the main supplier of aluminum body panels for Ford’s 2015 F-150; both GM and Ford‘s current trucks are already using aluminum hoods. Both Alcoa and Novelis, top two suppliers of automotive aluminum sheet products, believe that their sales of aluminum sheets to automakers will triple by 2015.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

July 26, 2013

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“Better batteries could revolutionize solar, wind power” — USA Today, 12 May 2013

As the demand for electricity rises, and the need to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions becomes increasingly important, the US and other countries are exploring various areas of carbon-free renewable energy, like wind and solar power.

Batteries are vital to these renewables — they are capable of enabling electric cars, buses, homes and buildings by stocking solar and wind power for when the sun and wind are out of commission. Since renewables only generate energy sporadically, batteries can maintain a balance so consumers are able to use stored energy to power their homes 24/7.

The company American Vanadium has recently discovered the only-known vanadium mine in the US, in Nevada. Vanadium is a metal that is found in shale rock, and can be used to make highly durable batteries for cars, homes and utilities. Businesses across varying fields are utilizing this metal to advance certain technologies, such as personal electronics, cars, solar panels and wind farms.

The solar panel global market is predicted to skyrocket, from $200 million in 2012 to $19 billion by 2017. The price of renewables has been steadily decreasing — solar panel prices have dropped by almost 60% since 2011. Solar and wind power use in the US has soared as well: last year, US electric power from solar panels rose to 76%, while wind turbines rose to 28%.

Batteries are garnering more attention because they are all-purpose. Batteries can be used to store grid-scale energy, such as hydroelectric power, where water is transported to a reservoir and then sent to operate generators. Batteries can also be employed anywhere and are efficiently scalable — they can run something smaller like a car, and something bigger like a factory.

Though it will take some time for us to fully develop batteries to suit our needs, batteries are key to sustaining our environment and resisting the affects of climate change.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

July 3, 2013

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“Alcoa Posts a Jump in Net Profit” – Wall Street Journal, 8 April 2013

Alcoa‘s 2013 first quarter profits improved by 59% from last year. The company’s 2013 net income was $149 million, compared to 94 million in 2012.

Alcoa’s decision to reduce production in their China plants allowed the price of their aluminum to rise. The profit increase was also spurred by a tax benefit, gained values in energy contracts and a fire-insurance recovery.

Alcoa, a company that was very much geared towards smelting and producing aluminum sheets, has now shifted its focus to other areas of metal production, such as the automotive and aerospace industries. Alcoa has experienced higher profits from these industries, which consistently need engineered parts, like bolts and other fasteners. The company has also managed to obtain new power-supply contracts and new technology investments that have also aided their profit increase. Alcoa now depends less on mining and smelting, and has been shutting down many of their costly smelters.

With their China plants closed, Alcoa removed some of the excess aluminum that was severely decreasing their metal prices. Now, Alcoa is resolute in their prediction for global aluminum demand — a 7% growth, based on both China’s flourishing population and the US’s improving economy.

We would not be surprised if Alcoa follows Alcan (now Rio Tinto Alcan and Novelis) in separating its primary-fabricated products by forgoing its less profitable, higher cost primary production facilities, and focusing on value-added engineered aerospace and automotive products.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 24, 2013

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