Visclosky: Steel industry's woes not self-inflicted
SCHERERVILLE — The American steel industry suffers from a negative perception, but it’s still the most efficient in the world, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky said.
“Too often people castigate steel,” the Democrat said. “One of the problems I think they face nationally is perception.”
Visclosky told the Lake County Economic Alliance at Teibel’s Friday there’s a misconception that Northwest Indiana’s steel mills are old and inefficient.
“Some of those buildings are old, but no one produces steel more efficiently than we do in the United States and in the 1st Congressional District,” Visclosky said.
“In the 1980s, it took 10.1 hours of human labor to produce a ton of steel. Today, it takes 1.9 hours to produce a ton. Next year it will take a little less – hence some of that unfortunate job loss we’ve had in Northwest Indiana.”
U.S. steelmakers have in fact reduced energy consumption per ton of steel by 32 percent, because they’ve been getting more efficient, Visclosky said. They, for instance, work with a national steel consortium at Purdue University Northwest to squeeze every dollar they can out of the cost of making a ton of steel.
“The idea that the challenges the industry faces today are of their own doing is categorically false." he said.
“They’re just not true. Nobody does it better than — not just Northwest Indiana — but (also) the United States of America.”
The real problem is international overcapacity, Visclosky said. The world had 220 million excess tons of overcapacity 10 years ago; that figured has skyrocketed to 600 million tons today.
To put that in perspective, the United States can make up to 110 million tons of steel in any given year, though steelmakers have been working to reduce that capacity.
“Since about 2000, the industry has reduced its capacity by 14 percent,” he said. “These are not self-inflicted wounds.”
The Congressional Steel Caucus has been urging the administration to enforce trade laws, including newly passed legislation that’s expected to make it easier to crack down on steel dumping, Visclosky said.
He said he would continue to fight for the steel industry and that it remained a foundation of Northwest Indiana’s economy, but stressed that since jobs in the industry won’t grow, the Region needs to diversify, such as by investing in expanded commuter rail.