How would you like your aluminum? Green or black? – by Andy Home (Reuters U.S. – May 10, 2017)

LONDON – Aluminum is one of the materials benefiting from the greening of the world’s economy. Lightweight and durable, it has been making steady inroads into the transportation sector in particular and enjoys one of the strongest usage profiles of any industrial metal.

But what promoters such as the Aluminum Association dub “the miracle metal” has a dirty little secret. To produce the stuff requires a lot of electricity and in many parts of the world that electricity is generated by coal, every environmentalist’s bogey fossil fuel.

Aluminum’s split eco-personality, green in its applications, a lot darker in its production, has been exposed by China’s inclusion of the metal in the list of industries targeted for smog-busting production cuts during the winter heating months.

The resulting supply uncertainty has elevated aluminum to the best performer among the major industrial metals traded on the London Metal Exchange this year. But that might be just the start of the price implications.

Some of the world’s largest producers of aluminum are now starting to push environmental sustainability as a market differentiator. Consumers may soon have a choice of buying green, low-carbon aluminum or “black” metal with a higher carbon footprint, raising the prospect of a two-tier market structure.

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