American Steel Production Question

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SpyderEdgeForever
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American Steel Production Question

Postby SpyderEdgeForever » Sat Sep 24, 2016 8:55 am

Please try your best not to let this get into a political discussion or debate. Look at this purely from an economic-social question:

Certain persons have made the basic claim (not mentioning their names) that they and others, if they had the will to do so, could bring steel production back to the United States of America, as it was in the Pre-1970 period, ie, not merely as an associated produced item, but as a major, global, internationally important product, made by American workers.

Is this possible or is this fanciful? I want all of your thoughts, ideas, and viewpoints on this.

Is it merely a matter of proper economic balancing and political maneuvering, for this to be done, or is it outright impossible due to the way the world economy(ies) and American workers have changed?

Could the USA (or for that matter Britain and even Europe) once again see an economy where masses of American men, and possibly women, now, would go to large centralized steel making factories and furnaces, like Bethelem Steel of old, and produce millions of tons of various forms of steel that competes economically on the world market, or, is this not going to happen?

And rather, is it inevitable that technology increases and advances, and the old days of bulk made steel will be replaced with 3d printed and nano assembled composites and materials and specialized steel production (and for those into it, niche applications of exotic super-steel)?

And so, let's say a certain person or group of persons in control of political machinery and authority were to make it their goal to use tariffs or whatever means they have at their disposal, to pressure international economics to favor American steel-making as it was Pre-1970s, what would the likely results be, for both the American and world economy, and the American workers?

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Re: American Steel Production Question

Postby yablanowitz » Sat Sep 24, 2016 10:16 am

Not going to happen as long as the EPA exists. Even if they were dismantled, I seriously doubt that we could compete on a purely economic level. People here don't want to work at a hot, dirty, labor intensive job for low pay. They'd much rather stare at their smartphones and vote for more government benefits so they don't have to work at all.

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Re: American Steel Production Question

Postby tvenuto » Sat Sep 24, 2016 4:43 pm

yablanowitz wrote:Not going to happen as long as the EPA exists. Even if they were dismantled, I seriously doubt that we could compete on a purely economic level. People here don't want to work at a hot, dirty, labor intensive job for low pay. They'd much rather stare at their smartphones and vote for more government benefits so they don't have to work at all.
Ha, I see someone didn't read the first sentence! I would amend your statement to: "they'd much rather stare at their smartphones and play monopoly money with the mutual fund that controls your retirement account."

In fairness, though, there is no such thing as a free market, so some political discussion is necessary when we talk about these things.

To answer your question: yes, it's absolutely possible to produce steel for local use. We just might not like what is required, though. It's entirely possible for the government to put tariffs on imported steel that raise its price past whatever our mills can produce for, what with their lazy goodfornothing smartphone-gazing employees ;). Thus, anyone using steel in the US would be compelled to buy US steel, since it's just plain cheaper than anything else.

The world stage gets a bit trickier, however. There's no way to force plants in other countries to pay for their negative externalities (like pollution, or worker conditions). As such, it may be impossible to produce for what they can whilst not f**king up our own environment. I read a book that made the very astute observation that everything we import from china is actually an export disguised as an import: we are exporting the environmental ramifications of making X item for $ dollars.

Tariffs are great for the local companies and local workers that they protect. Need to pay your employees $30 an hour? Cool! Let us know how much that changes the steel cost and we'll raise tariffs to match. However, nothing comes for free, and everyone else might not like what happens to the price of automobiles or other steel manufactured goods. So all these things are a balance. So some american companies and american workers: :D good! Other american companies and other workers: :mad:!

On the balance I think it's actually possible. There's something wrong with the fact that almost every superbowl commercial is paid for by a snack food or insurance. If we siphoned money away from those industries, which add little to society* (or are even detrimental), we could certainly re-purpose those funds in a constructive way. We could also tighten up our definition of non-profit and stop letting certain big businesses get away without paying taxes (speaking of the superbowl...).

*Please don't argue with me on the merits of the concept of insurance in general. This is obviously a necessary concept, and turning volatility into risk (and vice versa) can be productive. However nothing about this concept needs to include many companies that make giant profits due to the mechanics of the system that they helped create.

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Re: American Steel Production Question

Postby bdblue » Sun Sep 25, 2016 9:01 pm

yablanowitz wrote:Not going to happen as long as the EPA exists. Even if they were dismantled, I seriously doubt that we could compete on a purely economic level.
I work in the construction industry and know a little about steel production. There are numerous steel mills in the US, and a lot of structural steel and reinforcing steel is produced domestically. Foreign reinforcing steel is cheaper than domestic by a little bit. If a contractor is not required to use domestic they will usually use foreign in order to be able to bid lower on a project.

The steel mills that I am somewhat familiar with recycle a tremendous amount of scrap steel into usable building materials. Most of what they use appears to be scrap automobiles, and they use a lot of them. Steel is one of the most recycle materials in common use. I'm not aware of how much US steel is produced from iron ore. Of course cars are produced from sheet steel that is probably produced somewhere from iron ore.

I'm not sure what part the EPA would play with respect to large steel mills, the smaller mills don't seem to have any problems. Similarly I don't think there is a labor problem. The steel mill that I toured was a bit hot in the summer but it doesn't take much manpower to operate it. The tour guide joked that it took 1 man and 1 dog to run the mill, and the dog's job was to keep the man from touching the controls, meaning the mill was highly automated. But even a small steel mill these days uses a lot of electricity to operate, and production of electricity is what is expensive and EPA-sensitive. I seem to remember that steel production a long time ago used derivatives of coal. I suppose modern mills switched from coal to electricity.

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Re: American Steel Production Question

Postby noseoil » Tue Sep 27, 2016 8:30 am

Not very likely to happen in today's political climate, as was said already about pollution & regulation. We lost our steel making due to foreign competition many years ago, but also due to a system of antiquated mills which were not able to compete. Our mills were "state of the art" when steel making was a great industry here (1900), but the capital needed for investment was not put back to work as competition increased. Newer mills overseas, higher wages at home & a demand for cheaper goods had the effect of putting the industry out of business here. Not saying that Nucor isn't a good company, just that a JP Morgan or an Andrew Carnegie couldn't operate in today's environment to build a big business (they'd both be in jail in today's world).

There would need to be a different set of business rules enacted, trade barriers erected & a national will politically for more industry, so I don't think it's going to happen, at least not in my lifetime.

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Re: American Steel Production Question

Postby ChrisinHove » Wed Sep 28, 2016 4:08 pm

Whilst the West continues to borrow cheap money from China to buy its exports, which are both lower cost due to lower environmental and employment rights, and underpriced due to currency manipulation, thus allowing low inflation and low wage increases for the past decade or more, and from the combination of which some powerful domestic elements make a killing ... no. We're hooked on cheap.

Also, if you have heavy industry that you rely on, that puts far too much power, for some, in the hands of unionised workers. The then U.K. government dismantled our steel and coal industries for exactly that reason in the 80's, rather paying welfare to the cowed unemployed than subsidy to the productive but argumentative.

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Re: American Steel Production Question

Postby Doc Dan » Thu Sep 29, 2016 10:38 am

The thing about this is, that if we get into a real shooting war, like a WWIII or something, we need to ask whether we have the at home production capability as we had in WWII to make us a fearsome antagonist able to defend our home.
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The Mastiff
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Re: American Steel Production Question

Postby The Mastiff » Fri Sep 30, 2016 3:03 am

The thing about this is, that if we get into a real shooting war, like a WWIII or something, we need to ask whether we have the at home production capability as we had in WWII to make us a fearsome antagonist able to defend our home.
We do not have the industrial base we had for WW2. The general consensus is that any peer/near peer war will be over before new ships or even tanks and aircraft can be made and manned, trained and brought to bear. Notice we aren't even keeping a large combat reserve fleet like we did back after Ww2 where we brought carriers, cruisers and even battleships out of mothballs for Korea and Vietnam.

The idea is that the funds are better spent keeping newer ships in shape with well trained crews along with a few shipyards kept open at all times and not letting the knowledgeable workforce be scattered to the winds as happens shortly after shipyards stop working on whatever batches they were working on. Trained work forces themselves are very valuable and take a lot of money and effort as well as time to rebuild. Keeping them busy is a national priority and not for just surge production during war.

All countries have a number of days/weeks worth of munitions at the ready. Some may have 30 days worth. Some may only have a weeks worth ( most in fact have less than 10 days, some less than a week even though by treaty obligation they are supposed to have more). ( military spending, or more health insurance/clinics etc. Which ones get politicians reelected?) The truth is at the rate modern military s use up expendables war can get pretty expensive even before the enemies bombs and shells begin to take their toll.

This was noticed as far back as WW1. England couldn't keep up with the demand for simple artillery shells. Now, with artillery and rockets ( MLRS, etc.) each having computer chips in them add on the demand and cost for that. In a surge in war time just how fast could we produce what we need, then worry about transporting it to where needed.

See why the generals and think tanks like fast wars. :)

By the way, we have a bunch less steel plants than when I was growing up in the 60's and 70's. I remember when most of the ones around me closed due to the effect it had on the economy. A few years later after I moved to Michigan the Car industry did the same. Bad timing for me I guess. My father worked in a Steel plant in Cleveland while getting his degree. Despite all those plants closing I believe we are still producing similar tonnages every year. Newer plants are cleaner and produce more steel. I remember the air pollution getting noticeably better in the suburbs of Cleveland at the time after the steel plants closed.

Joe

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Re: American Steel Production Question

Postby SpyderEdgeForever » Fri Sep 30, 2016 8:47 am

As some on this thread have alluded to before, about America's steel plants not being upgraded as much as foreign nations, was one cause of this the fact that after WW2, America rebuilt the industrial capacity of nations like Japan and Germany, and helped them rebuild, in order to keep them as allies, while at the same time the operating American steel plants had not been upgraded or rebuilt?

Imagine a world where people have learned to engineer and control biochemistry to the point where the very trees, grasses, plants, and enzymes grow whatever you want, in a pre-programmed fashion, so if your people desire a new car, steel knives, or a strong plastic chair, the very item is grown from the atomic level by the engineered biological machines. That would be a very stable manufacturing world, indeed.

(Whenever I read the word factory plant, that thought comes to mind)


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