June is our traditional focus on energy savings. Saving energy is important to everyone because saving money on energy costs improves our companies’ bottom line. Energy savings often goes hand in hand with being more “green.” Let’s review what’s happening that might affect our ability to do business in a way in which we have become accustomed.

For years we have been encouraging readers to stay informed about “green” legislation and regulations that may impact our businesses. It’s hard to do this topic any justice in a one-page treatment, but let me update you one more time. The entire premise of “green” as it relates to greenhouse gases (GHG) involves models that predict increasing atmospheric temperatures as atmospheric CO2 increases. These models are virtually discredited because data quietly issued in January from 30,000 measuring stations indicates that the temperature-rising trend ended in 1997 while CO2 has continued to increase during the past 15 years. Due to decreased solar activity, experts are predicting that temperature trends over the next decade or more might continue downward, possibly to levels seen in the Little Ice Age associated with the Maunder Minimum in 1645-1715.

New studies using ikaite crystals show that in the Medieval Warm Period (500-1,000 years ago) warming was widespread, including Antarctica – not just Europe. Man-made CO2 was certainly not an issue then, but it does demonstrate the cyclical nature of climate. A NASA cloud study from March 2000 to February 2010 shows that during that decade global average cloud height decreased about 1%, or 100-130 feet. It’s possible that this change is one of the reasons we did not warm during this decade, because it’s believed that lower clouds allow the earth to cool more efficiently.

There’s little doubt that “green” is more political than scientific. It’s also clear that the outcome of November’s elections will affect the amount of regulations experienced by our companies in the future. President Obama has made his ideological thoughts clear multiple times, and while efforts like cap and trade have been virtually scrubbed from his current budget, ideology guides the future direction of regulation in this area. A brief one-minute video (see the Mobile Tag) clearly communicates his position.

The EPA and NOAA’s Climate Office appear to be the “green” plan of attack in the future. Since being installed by Obama as the administrator of NOAA, Dr. Jane Lubchenco (formerly the vice chairperson of the Environmental Defense Fund – EDF) has established a virtual Climate Service Office (proposed in Obama’s FY2012 budget), which stands ready to act. What is the EDF’s global warming (GW) position? The science is settled, GW is “accelerating at an alarming rate” and the answer is cap and trade. This position is likely to form policy if the current administration is re-elected. Would that be good for your thermal-processing business?

As I was writing this editorial, a news story ran about the threat to the steel industry of current EPA regulations. Check it out by clicking here. The concern is that EPA regulations are forcing the only manganese producers in the U.S. to close. If this happens, this key steelmaking element will need to be imported, which is certainly not a good strategic move and clearly not a good one for our industry. Another EPA rule (Utility MACT), which limits new power-plant GHG emissions, effectively kills new coal-fired plants by requiring them to use prohibitively expensive carbon-capture technology.

The steel industry, as indicated by AISI’s 2012 public-policy priorities, is concerned about the ways that economic growth is impeded by specific federal actions. “Lower corporate tax rates, sounder energy policy, better infrastructure, less-burdensome regulations and fair trade” top the steel industry’s agenda in 2012. They believe the time is right for tax reform. Given that the U.S. now has the world’s highest corporate tax rate (39.2%), I’d have to agree. Japan recently cut its rate to 38%, and China (25%) and Russia (20%) are considerably lower than the U.S. 

It seems like people are beginning to understand the dire consequences of an environmental policy based on ideology versus reality. The results of the recent West Virginia primary illustrate. Texas inmate 11593-051, who ran against Obama in that state’s primary garnered 42% of the vote. Gallup polls from West Virginia show that Obama’s energy policies and the EPA’s handling of mining permits give him a 32.7% approval rating.

If all of this isn’t enough to question “green” policies, consider that the Bering Sea experienced record ice cover of 103 days this winter. This is up from the previous record of 100 days set in 2010. Science and reality, not ideology, should dictate environmental policy.IH