Morning Brew - ☕ Squeaky-clean steel

What does it take to get fossil fuels out of steelmaking?
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May 30, 2024

Tech Brew

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Jordyn Grzelewski, Kelcee Griffis, Annie Saunders

GREEN TECH

So metal

Steel and coal industrial area Pidjoe/Getty Images

Replacing gas- and diesel-guzzling ICE vehicles with EVs has been touted as key to combating the climate crisis.

EVs eliminate tailpipe emissions, but the process of making them isn’t exactly squeaky clean. A vehicle, whether ICE or EV, emits about a third of its lifetime carbon pollution before it ever hits the road, according to Public Citizen, a progressive consumer rights advocacy nonprofit.

But there are burgeoning efforts to tackle one of the dirtiest aspects of auto manufacturing and heavy industry in general: steelmaking.

Traditional steelmaking accounts for about 7% of carbon emissions globally, according to Morgan Stanley; steel industry emissions must be halved by 2050, the International Energy Agency estimates, in order to meet climate goals like limiting warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Emerging technologies that promise to drastically reduce emissions from steel manufacturing will play an important role. And experts say the auto industry, a huge consumer of emissions-heavy primary steel, will be key to driving demand for “green steel,” or steel that’s produced without fossil fuels.

“We need automakers to be making more EVs and we need the infrastructure to support EVs and we need people to buy EVs,” said Carly Oboth, senior supply-chain campaigner for the climate program at Public Citizen, which is advocating for green-steel adoption by the auto industry. “But we also need to think about the materials that cars are made with.”

Keep reading here.—JG

   

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GREEN TECH

Steel yourself

Car factory production line Gerenme/Getty Images

Modern vehicles contain more software and tech than ever, but they’re still essentially steel on wheels.

Steel is the most common material in cars; it’s found in everything from the chassis to the wheels, making up at least half of a vehicle by weight.

The automotive industry accounts for about 16% of global steel consumption, per a 2023 Greenpeace report. Steel is responsible for more than 30% of a vehicle’s material emissions, the report said, and the percentage of automotive-life emissions from materials is slated to rise to 60% by 2040 as electrification eliminates tailpipe emissions.

That is why climate advocates say the auto sector is uniquely positioned to push for decarbonization in the steel industry, which accounts for about 7% of global carbon emissions.

That’s the thinking behind a new campaign from Public Citizen, a nonprofit progressive consumer rights advocacy organization, that demands that the auto industry step up its game on green steel, or steel that’s made without fossil fuels.

“The idea is that by encouraging top automakers to make these changes to their supply chains, it will catalyze major action by other automakers—and ideally, wider heavy industry,” Carly Oboth, senior supply chain campaigner for Public Citizen’s climate program, told Tech Brew.

“If [automakers] can signal their demand for green steel,” she added, “it will encourage and convey to steel producers that they need to invest in the technology and they need to use fossil-free steel.”

Keep reading here.—JG

   

AI

Full disclosure

Politics and TV illustration Bee32/Getty Images

Artificial-intelligence disclaimers could be coming to a screen near you this election season.

On May 22, the head of the Federal Communications Commission proposed a rulemaking that would let the agency explore imposing disclosure requirements when political ads on TV or radio include AI-generated content.

“As artificial intelligence tools become more accessible, the Commission wants to make sure consumers are fully informed when the technology is used,” FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “Today, I’ve shared with my colleagues a proposal that makes clear consumers have a right to know when AI tools are being used in the political ads they see, and I hope they swiftly act on this issue.”

The FCC oversees public use of the airwaves, including TV and radio broadcasts, and it has authority to regulate political advertising on those mediums. The agency emphasized that the rulemaking doesn’t seek to prohibit the technology’s use; it would merely call for viewers to be informed when they encounter it.

Keep reading here.—KG

   

TOGETHER WITH NOTION

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BITS AND BYTES

Stat: Roughly 20%. That’s how much Tesla’s carbon dioxide emissions rose between 2022 and 2023, The Verge reported, citing the EV maker’s latest impact report.

Quote: “Ubiquitous AI, which is coming, means ubiquitous creepy simulacra of the human voice. What will stand out will be humanity, and the accountability that comes with it.”—Hamilton Nolan, in his newsletter How Things Work, on “media companies…cutting deals with OpenAI that they will regret.”

Read: Google is playing a dangerous game with AI search (The Atlantic)

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