Home ARTICLES Aluminum's carbon footprint is dirty

Aluminum’s carbon footprint is dirty

Manufacturing aluminum is energy-intensive. Consequently, in China, where the world’s largest producers are headquartered, smelters that draw electricity from coal-fired power stations can release 22 tons of carbon for each ton of aluminum they produce, because the electricity they use is so polluting and carbon-intensive.

But not all aluminum is created that way. For example, the equivalent carbon emission figure for gas-powered plants in the Middle East is around 8 tons per ton of aluminum produced. Plants that run primarily on renewable energy can produce a ton of aluminum while creating less than 4 tons of CO2.

But even that figure is too high. We are investing to bring emissions well below that by 2025. Meanwhile, the leading innovators in the sector are also seeking to develop inert-anode technology that releases oxygen rather than carbon in the smelting process, with our aim being the rollout of a commercial, carbon-free aluminum product early in the next decade.

As environmental factors exert an increasing influence over corporate and consumer purchasing decisions, demand from the auto industry for the greenest variants of aluminum can only grow further. This was a key factor behind our decision to partner with Braidy Industries, of Ashland, Ky., to produce flat-rolled aluminum products for the U.S. auto industry — the first new rolling mill in North America in over 37 years.

So what does this all mean? Certainly nearly all major automakers are innovating and doing their best to respond to demand for greener vehicles and to be responsible corporate citizens in the fight against climate change.

But any car manufacturer making an authentic effort to reduce its carbon footprint must look up the supply chain to understand the true environmental impact of their vehicles and how they can best mitigate it. Consumers are choosing greener options in their purchasing habits. So, in turn, must manufacturers.

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