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Facts And Details Mar Trump Plans For Domestic Steel Production

February 13, 2017

Over the past couple months I have made it a priority to read about the reasons voters decided to cast a ballot for Donald Trump.  Just last week, as an example, the Wisconsin State Journal had a story about voters in Crawford County who did not care for the bombastic nature of Trump’s personality, or the immigrant bashing but voted all the same for Trump based on his claims that he would bring back jobs to the disaffected.    While I understand the desire of a segment of the nation–often found in rural areas–to again find economic prosperity–I am mindful that there is a total sea change underway regarding jobs, education, globalization, and the growth of technology.  There are no easy answers or quick solutions that are going to lift a certain demographic up and out of the place they now find themselves.

Which brings me to the notion that Trump made in the campaign, and during the opening days of his time in the White House.  Regarding energy pipelines Trump stated he wanted them built with domestic steel.   But as many noted for the last year when such statements were made that is not reality.  It makes for a great political sound bite.  But it is not the stuff of economic soundness.

But scrutiny of Trump’s demand shows that his simple-sounding “Buy American” sloganeering runs headlong into actual economic conditions, legal barriers, and basic requirements of governing.

Industry analysts say the idea of forcing the Keystone and Dakota pipelines to be made from American steel is, well, a pipe dream. The Dakota pipeline is almost complete, so its developers don’t need to buy much, if any, additional pipe.

As for Keystone, just drive a few miles east of Scranton in North Dakota, where hundreds of miles worth of 36-inch pipe — already purchased for the project — is stacked in a field and waiting for construction to begin.

Add to that the fact that few American steelmakers make the type of steel required for the pipeline.

All told, it looks as if Trump’s pipeline declaration is another example of facts and details getting in the way of the president’s original wishes — like finding a quick fix for the Affordable Care Act.

Few American steelmakers make the type of steel required for the pipeline, and there is skepticism they will retool their plants to make it in part because margins are low. American companies, he said, tend to focus on steel for appliances and automobiles.

“Somebody at the White House doesn’t have a clue,” said Charles Bradford, the president of Bradford Research Inc. “This is not a common type of steel. It’s a very high strength steel which very few people make.”

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