By Paul Homewood
One of the inevitabilities of life is how the Labour Party ties itself into knots over the contradictions of its own policies.
The news that the Port Talbot is likely to shed 3000 jobs as it transitions to “green steel”, as well as costing taxpayers £500 million, really should not come as a shock to Miliband and co, even given their low IQs.
Even so, it has.
Apparently in their own little dream world, you can uproot proven efficient technology, and replace it with expensive, less productive green technology, while at the same time saving money and creating loads of green jobs.
The Trades Unions are understandably furious, but at least they have been consistent in opposing the drive to Net Zero if it costs jobs.
As for the politicians though, take the son of Lord Kinnock of Brussels:
Does he not realise that Ed Miliband has been calling for arc furnaces to replace blast furnaces for years?
Electric Arc Furnaces (EAFs) rely mainly on scrap steel, which tends to be of highly unreliable provenance – in simple English, you have not got much idea what is in it!.
This does not, however, mean that EAFs cannot produce high quality steel. On the contrary. I worked in the 1970s at the brand new Stainless Steel Melting Shop in Sheffield, which used an EAF to produce alloy and stainless steels for the most demanding applications. EAFs are able to control steel specifications to a high degree, but first of all most of the scrap used needs to be of reasonable quality. (BTW – In drove past it again today, and it still brings back memories!)
Probably about half our scrap came from onsite operations, the rolling mills etc. We also used a lot of motor car bales, as a car is of a fairly well known property. And we also bought in stainless steel scrap, which by definition had to be of proven quality.
But somewhat surprisingly to some, we also used plenty of pig iron, as this too was uncontaminated.
Although there are already small EAF “mini-mills”in the UK, which are tailored to producing small batches of steel for specific orders, it is questionable whether there is enough high quality scrap in the UK to produce steel in bulk. Port Talbot, for instance, produces 3.3 million tonnes a year of steel strip.
A side issue is that EAFs produce much less steel than the blast furnace/BOS route. Port Talbot’s blast furnaces, for example produce 3.6 million tonnes a year of liquid iron. A typical EAF turns out maybe half a million tonnes a year.
Neither Tata or the government has stated how many EAFs will be built in this new investment, but I strongly suspect they will not replace all of its current output at Port Talbot.
This suspicion is reinforced by the fact that, according to the BBC, Tata’s workforce at Port Talbot is around 4000. Shutting down two blast furnaces certainly won’t save 3000 jobs, which leaves the logical conclusion that most of the job losses will come from the rest of the steelworks – ie rolling mills, finishing mills, and so on.
That inevitably points to a much lower level of steel production.