Have you heard about the Green New Steel?

Our lives are built on things we never think about.
By Julian Spector

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Our lives are built on things we never think about.

For most people, that’s true for electricity, though if you’re reading this, you likely take an interest in the flow of electrons through modern lifestyles. But even as a professional grid nerd, I’d never thought much about steel — until I read Canary Media’s new explainer on how to decarbonize it.

Steel literally structures our lives and plays a vital role in the clean energy infrastructure push that advocates want to see over the next decade. Those wind and solar plants, transmission lines and electric vehicles can’t hold themselves up.

But while vital to the decarbonization project, steel is also a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Freelance contributor Jay Stein explains:

Even in its diminished state, the U.S. steel industry releases more carbon dioxide emissions than any other domestic industry — nearly a ton of carbon dioxide for every ton of steel produced, according to consulting company Global Efficiency Intelligence. That’s largely because steel-making relies on coal and natural gas for most of its hefty energy consumption.

Stein then walks us through the more promising options for cleaning up this industry. Some of those are easily achievable but incremental:

  • Lean on stronger forms of concrete and wood so we don’t need as much steel.
  • Boost the portion of recycled metal in steel production.

Otherwise, steelmakers could capture their emissions, but that approach has some problems. That leaves the long-term solution of commercializing certain forms of electrolysis that are known to produce steel with little to no carbon emissions.

Stein explains how those methods work and how far off from cost-effectiveness they are. Give it a read and wow your friend group with prognostications on this vital and overlooked piece of the clean energy puzzle.

Also check out Jeff St. John’s analysis of how recent moves to free up DOE funding for transmission lines could unlock loads of new wind and solar investment.

And finally, I’m hosting a Clubhouse panel this afternoon on the state of cleantech investing. Hope you’ll join us!

Thank you to our launch sponsors for their support.

Julian Spector is senior reporter at Canary Media.