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Bluescope spends a billion in US because “cheap energy”

Add another billion to the cost of the Renewable Energy Target?

Bluescope Steel LogoIn the last few days Bluescope Steel (formerly BHP) has confirmed it will spend US$700m (AU$1b) to expand it’s North Star steel mill in Ohio. So there are multiple headlines. But back in February CEO Mark Vassella explained exactly why they were thinking of it, and his first reason was “energy prices”. Last week, high energy prices were even “a tragedy” for Australian manufacturing. This week however, he’s clarified his position by muddying it up. Now there other reasons and the solution is to fix our gas prices. He’s backpedaling and tossing quotes that happen to help the renewables industry.

Perhaps he’s been heavied by his PR and strategy team? Now he’s saying that energy costs matter, but labor costs do too and “we weren’t ever going to put another steel mill in Australia”. He’s even saying energy costs “did not play a role” — the complete opposite. These will become the quotes the renewable energy fans rely on. Apparently, now what he really wants is cheaper gas — which requires a socialist government-driven solution to fix gas prices, and it’s safe for anyone to mention anything that requires bigger government. It’s not so safe for him to say “get the government out of our electricity market”, “axe the RET”, or “Australia has too much red tape, and too many regulations.” And he doesn’t say that.

Nor does he point out that if we burned more coal, we wouldn’t need to use much expensive gas to make electricity, we’d have cheaper electricity and we could sell more profit-making gas overseas. (But Jo does and you can quote me.)

Which world does Australia get richer in: Burn more coal or fix gas prices?

h/t to Eric Worrall at WUWT, RicDre, and Lance

BlueScope close to $1b US steel mill expansion

Feb 25 2019, Simon Evans, Australian Financial Review

The chief executive of Australia’s largest steelmaker, BlueScope, says much cheaper energy in the United States is a major driver of the company’s preparedness to invest in a $1 billion expansion of its star performer, the North Star steel mill in Ohio.

North America was providing far more growth opportunities than Australia, Mr Vassella said.

He said energy prices in the US were only a third of those in Australia and New Zealand, and that was a big plus, along with North Star’s proximity to customers and the strong market for steel products, which has benefited from trade sanctions that favour US steelmakers in supplying automotive companies and building products.

“It’s part of the package of a competitive business model,” he said. “We’re still paying too much for energy in Australia.”

Last week the CEO was still saying that energy prices were a tragedy”

Aug 16 2019, Simon Evans, Australian Financial Review

BlueScope chief executive Mr Vassella said the $1 billion expansion of the North Star mill, to be fully up and running by 2023, was the largest capital investment the steelmaker would likely ever make…

Mr Vassella lamented the state of Australian manufacturing as the sector battled high energy prices and said one of the main drivers of the North Star expansion, which will increase capacity by 40 per cent, was that energy costs in the United States were substantially lower.

“That’s a tragedy quite frankly for Australian manufacturing,” Mr Vassella said.

BlueScope also operates the Port Kembla steelworks in New South Wales, which underwent major cost-cutting and restructuring in 2015. Mr Vassella said he worried a lot about manufacturers in Australia who were BlueScope’s customers and were facing ”demand destruction” because their energy costs were too high.

As Trump would say …”Winning!”

As ScoMo won’t say: “Losing!”

See his latest muddy quotes below where he contradicts himself:

BlueScope steels against US downturn

Aug 20 2019, Nick Evans, The Australian article:

He seized on low energy costs and lower labour costs that made it “compelling” to build additional capacity at its North Star steel mill in Ohio.

The Ohio-based North Star delivered a record annual profit of $654.7m last financial year, up 52 per cent, in a year in which profits fell across BlueScope’s Australian and New Zealand steel businesses and its building products divisions in Asia and the US.

While Mr Vassella renewed his criticism of Australia’s energy market, again joining the legion of key manufacturing bosses to condemn high domestic energy prices and call for a domestic gas reservation policy to drive down local power prices, he said energy prices did not play a role in BlueScope’s decision to expand its US presence.

“Let’s be clear: we weren’t ever going to put another steel mill in Australia — it wasn’t an Australia versus the US decision, it’s probably more of a statement about how business-friendly it is in the US,” he said.

Perhaps someone pointed out how his earlier comments were “gold” for skeptics and terrible for the green-left-labor politicians he doesn’t want to get offside? Besides, he doesn’t want a Divestment campaign running against Bluescope. The company does use a lot of coal…

9.2 out of 10 based on 58 ratings

42 comments to Bluescope spends a billion in US because “cheap energy”

  • #

    We all like stuff and we know someone somewhere will be burning something to make our stuff. It’s just that the someone needs to be somewhere else.

    The one remaining advantage of the nation state to our Green Betters is that they can go on consuming while rejecting production. Burn Australian coal to make solar panels in China and they get virtue points for the panels and no penalties for the coal. Win-win! When they have their One World they won’t be able to cry NIMBY.

    No doubt our green jet-set will think of something. Maybe they can go back to the old Tetzel strategy of selling indulgences off the back of a cart. Worked for a Medici pope.


    • #
      Another Ian

      Quoting a friend

      “The problem is that we have run a GROSSLY over-valued currency for more than 60 years. This has favoured consumption over production and favoured so called ‘service industries’ over Primary and Secondary. i.e. for 60 years we have artificially expanded Banks. lawyers, Government, Retail, building mansions etc etc. So you lose your basic strategic industries. This causes a totally false population distribution (Sydney and Melbourne vs the rest) Even worse is the fact that, over such a long period of time of false job allocation, the education system servicing the economy gets screwed towards these service and consumption industries. So the universities are filled with people studying Law, Arts, Film and Television, Life Coaching etc etc etc etc. Even worse than that is the destruction of a prudent productive society.
      We’re f…..d!!!! “


      • #
        Kinky Keith

        Good perspective.


      • #
        Graeme No.3

        Sorry Ian,
        the ‘rot’ hit the fan in the late 1960’s. The chief financial officer (of the company my father worked for) was hauled up before a tribunal in Canberra in the early Whitlam years, and lectured on the need for industry to consolidate and gain lower prices from increased market share. They even lectured on how his company should take over some of the smaller competitors, and abandon making their own components. Why make 90,000 compressors a year (25% of the market) when they could have 33% of the market by buying these from one of the smaller players (who would then achieve volume production of 360,000). He pointed out that the company had started making its own compressors in the early 1950’s (at the urging of the then government) to help the balance of payments. Further, their compressors, unlike those of competitor X, were much more reliable and had much lower service costs.
        After further lecturing from the academics on the tribunal he lost his temper (most unusual) and said “If we must buy the cheapest, we will buy from Danfoss who make 9 million a year, and whose products are reliable. And if cost is to be a factor, then he looked forward to cheaper Lawyers being imported from El Salvador, and politicians from Mexico, where they were much cheaper to buy”.
        That wasn’t what they thought could happen. The company lost employees hand over fist, until the 3,200 then were reduced below 600 when they were taken over (and slightly more than half the survivors were sacked to cut costs). The company became a brand name, the company doing the takeover also disappeared (as did any jobs) and now we are back to the early 1950’s economically.
        It was not much later in the Whitlam years that my father noted that manufacturing industry had stopped hiring high performers from the Public Service.


        • #
          Kinky Keith

          Hi Graeme, I think that your views are complementary and refer to the same thing: bad government.

          The issues that your father was aware of and the mismanagement of the exchange rate are sourced from the same flawed elitist politicians who began Australia on its road to ruin.

          The industry that I spent almost a decade in up to the early seventies is now part of Bluescope, it’s reported to be just “hanging on”.

          A once great workplace sacrificed to political expediency.


        • #
          Another Ian

          “The problem is that we have run a GROSSLY over-valued currency for more than 60 years.”

          I’m not sure that is wildly different to your experience


      • #
        Bill in Oz

        Jo are you really expecting a CEO to be honest & reliable ?
        Come on that’s bit naive of you !
        Sarc !


  • #

    Climate Change is the most important issue facing the world today. That seems to be the consensus of the financiers. Or is it that they do not care
    how much of our money is spent ‘solving’ the problem, as long as their businesses are fine.

    BHP under Group CEO Andrew McKenzie are right behind Climate Change as the world’s biggest problem, despite making $8Billion last year on coking coal and iron ore and being one of the greatest single contributors to CO2 in the world today. Politicians across the world pay homage to this nonsensical alleged problem, despite no actual sign of a problem in the 31 years since it was announced.

    So we are long past the point where any real science has anything to do with Climate Change, which used to be (man made) Global Warming.

    And as the world starts to cool quickly over the next decade, this will either die away or segue to (Man Made) Global Cooling, caused by CO2, either rising OR dropping.


  • #

    o/t but need to post this. read all:

    20 Aug: Newsbusters: Censorship! AOC-Aligned Climate Group Wants ‘Deniers’ Squashed in News Stories
    By Tim Graham
    On Monday night, national radio host Mark Levin read from a frightening article by Tyler O’Neil at PJ Media headlined “AOC-Aligned Climate Group Demands Media Silence ‘Climate Deniers'” (LINK). A group called ***The Climate Mobilization which advocates for a dramatic “World War II-scale” takeover of the economy to fight global warming, condemned the media for pursuing “objectivity” by giving air time to “climate deniers.”…

    18 Aug: PJ Media: AOC-Aligned Climate Group Demands Media Silence ‘Climate Deniers’
    by Tyler O’Neill

    ***The Climate Mobilization: Advisory Board
    (includes) Michael E. Mann, Climatologist and Geophysicist ETC ETC


  • #
    Peter Fitzroy

    Well if the electricity price was an issue there are cheaper places like Canada – where they also have coal
    It sounds more like the Make America Great Again policy is working in the little Aussie Battler, Bluescope’s favour


    • #

      Again with the ignorant distractions and diversions.

      Canada has large amounts of hydro.. because they can.


    • #

      And why would any manufacturing company set up in a country run but a Marxist/Green idiotic SJW, pushing the country towards socialist anti-carbon failure…

      … when they can set up in a country who’s President is setting up the country to flourish and expand.


      • #
        Peter Fitzroy

        It is nice when you agree with me


        • #

          So you agree that Australia’s unreliability and cost of electricity is driving companies away from manufacturing.

          That is exactly what we have all been saying.

          Great to see you finally “get it”.

          But I forget, your ideology is to turn Australia into a state of Venezuela, isn’t it PF.

          Where everybody gets an even share of nothing.


      • #
        el gordo

        ‘And why would any manufacturing company set up in a country run but a Marxist … ‘

        Dunno, this from the Bluescope blurb.

        ‘Our relationship with Asia began in the early 1900s, when our business first began trading with China. Today, we are Australia’s leading manufacturing investor in China.’


        • #

          China isn’t Marxist.

          That weird little ponce that is PM of Canada.. Socialist to the bone.


          • #
            el gordo

            Beijing is closer to fascism with Chinese characteristics, whereas the Canadian government has cultural Marxist tendencies.


    • #

      If Australia started adopting some of the USA policies, like withdrawing from the Paris Farce, and pushing reliability of energy supply forward instead of backwards, got rid of all the imbalance in electricity supply by removing renewable mandates and subsidies of all types..

      .. then they might just hang onto some of the manufacturing base that used to make Australia great.


      • #

        If we hadn’t made the mistake of allowing the Tertiary Education Sector to expand so much we wouldn’t have a country full of unemployable ideological dead-wood pushing a brainless proto-communist utopia via the destruction of the industry which allowed such tertiary education to grow.


        • #

          Bolsonaro is pushing back against the most noxious parts of university academia, but of course he’s “far right”…


  • #
    Kinky Keith

    What’s left of the Australian steel industry should be and embarrassment to any genuine government, but nobody calls them to account or points to the core reason for Australia’s lack of an industrial base.

    Bad government, Self centred government and obfuscation.



    • #

      Years ago we got BHP steel for almost everything we were fabricating, it was beautiful to work with and had extremely rare imperfections, the specifications to officially certify it for kg per m were always over in measurements, then when BHP was demerged to Bluescope in 2002 they eventually ceased Australian production making the cheaper imported (Chinese) product the major supply for the metal industry.

      The imported product was initially in spec to Australian standards but by the time I left the industry 2014 the measurements had reduced to the point of being under spec, some will disagree but I checked this daily and will swear by it.


      • #

        So true Yonnie
        I was working in roll forming, and many of the 5 tonne coils for roof sheets came in with shipping dockets from all over Asia!
        The BlueScope label changed from “Made in Australia” to “Made by BlueScope” in around 2005.


    • #

      Strange we should say that about imports. North South pipeline installed with much fanfare. 18 months later with very little to no indication, a section was dug up and replaced with Tubemaker brand steel pipe…the stuff that come out was crushed by the weight of a 45tonne excavator..5ft pipe! It was rusted through and only used once carrying fresh water


  • #

    note the condescension of the BBC in the summary:

    AUDIO: 26min29sec: 21 Aug: BBC WorldBusinessReport: Brexit fears for seaports
    As Britain’s new-ish prime minister has written to leaders of the European Union saying he wants the UK to leave the EU in just over two months’ time – with a deal if one can be agreed. PM Boris Johnson, a cheerleader for Brexit, repeated his pledge that the UK will leave with or without an agreement on October the 31st. Many in business have long been concerned about the potential for disruption at the sea ports that connect the UK to continental Europe if there’s a no deal exit. Rob Young attempted to work out what could happen at the border…

    only suggesting you listen from 8min14sec to 9min05sec:: Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association: ready as can be. says to BBC interviewer, paraphrasing, you mentioned exporters, there are also importers.
    ***don’t forget, our economy is built on imports. ***we don’t manufacture as much as we used to so, at least with the govt measures, it does mean that a lot of the trade coming in should be able to pass through swiftly and keep those ports fluid.


    • #

      posted a Blackout post from the following blog on a previous thread of jo’s. thought this one was relevant here. first, about the blog:

      About: Consciousness of Sheep blog
      Hi. I am Tim Watkins, I am, for my sins, a social and economic scientist with a background in public policy research…
      I first started the Consciousness of Sheep website as an offshoot from my book of the same title. It has, however, morphed into a running commentary on the slow motion train wreck that is Western civilisation in general and its British variant in particular. My sole aim with this website is to raise awareness of the predicament of the “three Es” (Economy, Energy and Environment)…
      I keep the site up to date with a little help from my buddies: Julia Kaye from Waye Forward Publishing and Vladimir Morozov from OpenCreation web design…

      2 Aug: ConsciousnessOfSheep blog: Stagnation is the only thing keeping the lights on
      Green campaigners will no doubt be cheering the announcement of the closure of the Aberthaw B coal-fired power station yesterday…
      (scroll down) Falling energy demand simply means that we are collectively doing less of the things on the right hand side of the diagram. That is, households are cutting back on their consumption, as are industrial, business and transport consumers. And the big environmental benefit of this economic stagnation is that the UK can – for now – afford to lose all of that coal capacity five years earlier than planned for.

      This said, the other problem visible in the chart up in the top left corner, is the 21.3TWh that we import via interconnectors from the continent. In the short term, leaving the European Union without a trade deal or transitional agreement in place at the end of October will fundamentally alter the market for imported electricity. As Sarah Clark and James Sweeney at The Chemical Engineer (LINK) reported in March: (READ BLOG FOR EXCERPTS)…

      While the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit are steep enough, the UK government’s increasing reliance on imported electricity to bridge the growing shortage of domestic capacity comes with problems of its own. By 2025 the government expects to be importing 22 percent of Britain’s electricity from the continent. However, as Will Gardiner, chief executive of Drax Group told the Guardian (LINK) last year, this effectively means Britain will be importing other countries’ carbon emissions.

      More worrying, though, is that states across the European Union are cutting their own domestic electricity generation (as fossil fuel and nuclear plants come to the end of their lives) while failing to replace the lost capacity with wind, solar, nuclear or even new fossil fuel generation. As a result, like the UK government, most member states are simply assuming that they will be able to import each other’s excess capacity despite total capacity falling…

      We can – like governments across Europe – pretend that there will be some magic external supply of energy that we can call upon as we close our own capacity. But close our own capacity we will; not least because the economics of ever lower net energy fuels make replacing current capacity unviable; never mind adding the capacity that would be required to bring about the fantasy of the fourth industrial revolution. In practice, then, we are heading into a future in which the steady 24/7/365 supply of electricity that we have become accustomed to will be going away. In future we are going to have to get by on a lot less of the energy we have been able to take for granted; and as a consequence, we are going to be doing a lot less, making a lot less and consuming a lot less…

      In the event that Britain does leave the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019 (just in time for winter) with the anticipated impact on electricity imports that that entails; Britain might once again become a world-leader… this time leading the world in the direction of our collective post-industrial future.


      • #

        Speaking of sheep….just narrowly avoided colliding with some 6′ hopping rodents on the drive home….hopped across the road near our house in the dark….

        Next to greenies and socialists they are the most useless things on the planet…and they eat the feed our horses need, but the greenies wont let us cull them

        Anyone want a few million of them? Take as many extreme geens and lefties as well…free to a good home….as far away as possible…let them create a power policy that will fail , free of charge…

        / sarc


      • #

        Uk is destined for more “load management”. They should consider importing Audrey Zibelman to sell that message.


  • #

    So even the CEO of Bluescope can be bullied into obfuscation!
    Wouldn’t that amount to misleading shareholders?
    Dave B


  • #
    Roy Hogue

    So the price of a kWh does matter after all. Who would a thought it?


  • #

    a touch of scepticism? don’t recognise the writer from the pic only. behind paywall:

    21 Aug: UK Times: Powerless to fix our infrastructure
    In National Grid’s report into the events and circumstances of Blackout Friday on August 9, we have learnt that it wasn’t National Grid’s fault.

    The shutdown of trains, mainly on the Thameslink line, was due either to the electrical power systems of Network Rail or to faults in the newish rolling stock fleet built by Siemens. The outages at Ipswich hospital and Newcastle airport were their own separate issues.

    The loss of power to a million homes from lightning strikes taking out a Cambridgeshire network and stilling the turbines of Hornsea wind farm off Yorkshire, plus the power station failure at Little Barford, were three independent actions, it says, which together add up to an exceptional occurrence.
    Of the power producers Orsted, of Denmark, and…

    not an easy piece to find, except in Taipei Times. note the original headline in the url:

    Updated 20 Aug: Bloomberg: UK Renewable Energy Mix Faces Scrutiny in Blackout Probe
    By Jeremy Hodges
    National Grid PLC is to investigate how to better incorporate the UK’s increasing share of renewable energy in the power mix after a blackout earlier this month saw more than one million homes lose power…
    The blackout came at a time when the UK’s power industry is facing increased political scrutiny.
    The opposition Labour Party has promised to renationalize some parts of the network if it wins the next general election, and the government is concentrating on leaving the EU, which would upend trade ties and the case for badly needed investment in the nation’s energy infrastructure…

    “The evolution of the electricity generation mix in Great Britain since 2008 has been significant,” National Grid said in its preliminary report to the British Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem). “Wind generation, solar and interconnectors are different to the conventional electricity generation sources.”…
    National Grid plans to develop new frequency response services and inertia monitoring systems to help stabilize the grid…

    “We believe there are still areas where we need to use our statutory powers to investigate these outages,” said Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem’s executive director of systems and networks…


    • #

      what’s extraordinary is the FakeNewsMSM worldwide has little or no interest in reporting updates on the blackout.

      Guardian’s business editor has this in Irish Times, but not in The Guardian. what a load of rubbish it is:

      21 Aug: Irish Times: Britain’s big blackout: Energy regulator searches for answers
      Inquiry into worst outage in 10 years will seek to learn lessons to avoid repeat of chaos
      by Fiona Walsh, business editor, The Guardian
      Little Barford is a peaceful, picturesque village in rural Bedfordshire, made up of a few farms, fields, thatched cottages and St Denys, an historic Norman church hidden away in a meadow.
      Few outside the county had heard of it until recently, but now it’s at the centre of an urgent inquiry into what caused Britain’s worst blackout in more than a decade…

      With so much chaos caused by a simple bolt of lightning, one can only imagine the damage that could be done by a far larger, and malicious, attack.

      another piece of nonsense:

      20 Aug: BNN Bloomberg: U.K. Blackout Probe Is Rich in Jargon Dating Back to Isaac Newton
      by Andrew Reierson
      It’s “inertia” and it plays a vital role in keeping your lights on. Described by Isaac Newton in his first law of motion back in 1686, it’s the concept in physics whereby a moving object will keep moving until a force such as friction causes it to do otherwise, or an object at rest will stay at rest.
      Any power plant with moving parts has inertia. For example, coal is burned to produce steam to operate a turbine that generates electricity. That heavy, turning mass has inertia, which will continue to spin for a while even if the coal suddenly stops burning…

      National Grid said operating in low inertia conditions is already the “new normal,” but it’s looking at ways to adapt further to the changing energy mix. These include a project looking at how new sources of inertia can be provided, inertia monitoring services and new frequency response measures…

      theirABC has had nothing I can find since the blackout itself; nothing substantial at all from BBC – no analyses by their brilliant reporters!


    • #

      It is truly marvellous to watch the urgency with which history is being rewritten within days of the event.


  • #

    truly pathetic little piece by AP – no mention of Hornsea, wind, REs:

    20 Aug: WaPo: AP: UK regulator launches investigation into electricity outage
    The announcement Tuesday came as the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets released a preliminary report on the outage, which showed it began with a lightning strike on the transmission network north of London..

    can find nothing from NYT, much less CNN or other cables, US networks, etc. yet people are being fed daily propaganda on how great REs are.

    the following excerpts aren’t even found on the little available behind paywall. had to do multiple searches to get this much:

    20 Aug: UK Telegraph: It’s about time business leaders start saying what they think
    By Jon Yeomans, Assistant Business Editor
    The National Grid’s initial report to the regulator, Ofgem, reads like a Dan Brown novel. It’s littered with place names that could be part of an absurd hunt for the grail: Little Barford, Wymondley, Eaton Socon. So whodunnit?…


  • #
    Antoine D'Arche

    guarantee he got a call from Canberra, say the Minister’s office, along the lines of, “listen you can’t say that, we know prices are high and we’re working on it but your comments really don’t help us and they only put us under more pressure. Be kind to us and we’ll throw you a bone or two down the track, maybe some tax concessions blah blah”.


  • #
    Gerry, England

    With manufacturing closing down in Australia due to energy costs, they are no doubt finding less demand for their products. So go where the demand is and ship over a bit of steel for Australian factories.


  • #

    I don’t understand why our energy shortage isn’t being discussed more generally. Where will this end?