The two remaining blast furnaces in Port Talbot are to close and a long history of “virgin” steel-making in Wales will come to an end. The loss of 3,000 jobs will be a personal and community tragedy.
A similar fate awaits steel making in Scunthorpe, which means that the UK can no longer make steel from raw materials. Electric arc furnaces will continue to operate at both sites, allowing scrap steel to be recycled (a good thing since currently most of our scrap steel goes abroad to be recycled).
But our ability to make highly specialised steel (which might be needed for armament production) is now compromised; ironically that role has now been exported to countries with whom we might find ourselves in future dispute or even conflict. Which is seriously mad.
For the companies involved (Chinese in Scunthorpe and Indian in Port Talbot) this looks like a straightforward commercial decision. Port Talbot is said to be losing £1 million per day. The plain fact is that taking this work elsewhere in the world allows for cheaper production. But make no mistake, blast furnaces will be built in another country to create the steel no longer produced in Wales, and no doubt some of it will be imported back into the UK.
I suspect that a good proportion of that £1 million per day loss is avoidable (green levies, employment taxes etc) and in fact goes straight back to the treasury. Put another way, the true cost of supporting this strategic industry and of course the 3000 direct jobs and many more indirect jobs, may in truth be far less. It might be a better way to spend money than the Covid enquiry.
The UK Government is stumping up £500 million (our taxes), to subsidise “Green” electric arc furnaces in Port Talbot, saving some jobs. The Welsh Government is doing the usual combination of nothing useful and blaming Westminster. And that is probably because closing the blast furnaces fits nicely with its obsession for Net Zero.
It’s well past time that we started to query the crazy groupthink, ignorance and incompetence behind this. Because just as in the Welsh Government’s assault on agriculture, this half-baked nonsense comes at a real human cost.
Let’s actually do some thinking!
Blast furnaces generate a lot of greenhouse gases. But they aren’t going to disappear; they are going somewhere else. So there is absolutely no environmental benefit at all. In fact, it would probably be better for these to be well run in the UK. And there will be a carbon cost in re-importing the steel to the UK.
The “green” arc furnaces will only be green at the point of production. They will need large amounts of dependable electricity, and variables like wind and solar probably won’t provide this. Since we have failed to invest in nuclear or dependable alternatives like tidal, this electricity will almost certainly come from fossil fuel fired power stations. So the idea that this arc furnace produced steel is magically green, is just a myth.
This “Net Zero” project only achieves something useful in the minds of blinkered virtue signallers. For those of us living in the real world, it’s way beyond insane.