LONDON – At the end of the last century the United States was home to 22 aluminum smelters, all but one of them operating.
By the end of this year there will be just eight, of which only four will be producing metal, two of them at reduced rates.
The latest round of closures, led by Alcoa, is happening just as the metal’s usage in the United States is set to experience another quantum leap forward.
Aluminum has made steady inroads against steel in the automotive sector, a process that is going to markedly accelerate with the roll-out of the mass-market F-150 pick-up truck.
Number one on the list of “the tough 10 reasons every other truck is history”, according to Ford’s advertising campaign, is the fact the F-150 has a “high-strength, military grade aluminum alloy body.”
It is a bitter irony for U.S. smelters that the low price environment that is forcing them out of business only adds to the attraction of incorporating aluminum into applications such as the F-150.
But the simple reality is that on a global basis there is too much of the stuff around.
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