We sure love that $1.58 a gallon gas. It gave us the equivalent of a $100 billion tax cut as our wages remained stagnant. We are flying and driving more. We are buying bigger vehicles.
But gas is cheap because there is lots of oil. A glut of oil means less need to find oil. Less exploration means less need to sink wells and line those new holes with steel.
So more than 2,000 steelworkers from U.S. Steel’s Granite City Works find themselves idle, because most of what they make is used to make underground oil pipe. No one is saying or guessing how long the plant will be idle.
There is another culprit, and that is cheap foreign steel. Chinese and South Korean steel is being “dumped” at below-market prices, making the weak demand even worse by creating too much supply.
Madison County leaders and U.S. Reps. Mike Bost, John Shimkus and Rodney Davis were all ready to make a push to improve what they could. Then the big snow hit and pushed back until mid-February their confab in Washington, D.C.
When Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan and the others finally make the trip, Bost said they can make some progress and a difference.
Before last year, Bost said an industry needed to be shuttered before trade remedies could be sought. New legislation allows a significant loss of market share to trigger a complaint, and the U.S. Department of Commerce was given back the staff to allow it to react more quickly to unfair trade complaints.
The local group and congressmen will meet with the Steel Caucus. And it will push U.S. Steel leaders to diversify the markets for its Granite City product so it isn’t so reliant on demand by the oil industry.
Bost said Granite City will again produce steel because U.S. Steel has invested too much to modernize the plant, making it an asset that is difficult to shutter. The question still is: When?