The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, chaired by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), today continued its "Nation of Builders" hearing series with a focus on steel manufacturing.
"According to the American Iron and Steel Institute, steel manufacturing employs 161,900 individuals at over 100 facilities nationwide. And, the steel industry is indirectly responsible for over 1.1 million jobs in industries like transportation, construction, auto, and national security. The productivity of the steel industry is astounding," stated Chairman Terry. "Since the late 1980s, U.S. steel plants have seen a five-fold increase in productivity, producing one ton of finished steel in 10.2 man-hours in the early 1980s to an average of just over two man-hours in 2011. Today, the U.S. is the third largest producer of steel, producing over 86 million metric tons. And U.S. steel manufacturers do this while maintaining a strong commitment to workplace safety. That's a testament to a very highly skilled workforce."
Top executives in the steel manufacturing industry testified today on a range of challenges and opportunities currently facing U.S. steel manufacturers. Steel manufacturing has seen tremendous gains in recent years, due in large part to America's energy boom, but the industry continues to experience setbacks as a result of a sluggish economy and unfavorable federal policies.
John Surma, Chairman and CEO for United States Steel Corporation, explained how America's natural gas renaissance is positively affecting the steel industry, providing manufacturers with affordable domestic energy and opening new markets. He stated, "As the energy industry has increased its domestic exploration and production efforts, new markets have emerged for steel tubular products and services. The energy sector has been a rare bright spot for us during a challenging period of economic recession and slow growth in the rest of the economy."
John Ferriola, President and CEO of the Nucor Corporation, explained how unfair trade practices are threatening American companies' ability to compete in a global marketplace. Describing the recent surge in cheap imports, Ferriola stated, "Given the long history of unfair trade in the steel sector, we are very concerned that foreign market distortions -- including dumping and subsidies -- are one of the principal underlying causes of this injurious import surge." He added, "As a result of these trade barriers, the open U.S. market becomes a dumping ground for steel products from around the world. This dumping continues to present a huge challenge to the U.S. steel industry's recovery. This is where American policy becomes important. Policymakers have a role to play -- namely, enforcing our trade laws to ensure our system of global free trade is working fairly."
Testifying before the subcommittee, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), Chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus, noted, "Steelmakers also face challenges beyond our shores from nations that consistently violate their obligations under international trade agreements. Our steelmakers can win this fight, but only if there are clear standards in place giving them -- and the working men and women of this country -- a fair shot at competing and succeeding."
Mike Rehwinkel, President and CEO of EVRAZ, called for greater regulatory certainty, stating, "To be competitive in today's market, we need a reasonable, streamlined regulatory approval process for the construction and permitting of new facilities or modernization of existing ones Currently the bureaucratic permitting process has become controlled by special interests that raise issues outside the purview of the process simply to delay an approval. To continue to have a healthy industry, regulations should be well defined." Rehwinkel pointed to the Keystone XL pipeline as an example of a project that has been tied up in regulatory red tape.
"We want to make sure our steel manufacturers have the opportunity to compete on equal terms. If we can help facilitate that and make sure the U.S. government is not thwarting progress, then I am confident they will flourish in a competitive market," added Chairman Terry.