Steely Man

Smelting Away

European steel producers suffer from very high production costs.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    A cocktail of pollution limits, high energy costs, overcapacity and cheap Asian imports could kill off the European steel industry within 20 years.

  • Facts


    • Wolfgang Eder is chair of the World Steel Association and boss of Voestalpine, a producer.
    • He believes two-thirds of European capacity must be cut by 2035.
    • Producers’ energy costs in the United States can be half those in Europe.
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Wolfgang Eder is chairman of the World Steel Association, whose members account for around 85 percent of global steel production. The industry body has a lot on its plate at the moment as ever tougher climate regulations hit its members’ power-hungry and polluting mills, forcing costs up and profits down.

But the 63-year-old is not scared to criticize his industry, and as chairman and CEO of Voestalpine, a steel-maker based in Linz, Austria, he can afford to as the company is more profitable than the competition thanks to its early decision to specialize, particularly in railroads. In the last fiscal year, it generated sales of €11 billion ($12.5 billion).

Mr. Eder, will there still be a working blast furnace in Europe in 20 years’ time?

Bearing in mind the prevailing conditions of the last ten years and the likilihood that they will continue, I have a hard time imagining that there will still be an active blast furnace in Europe.

What bothers you about the prevailing conditions here?

Costs, costs, costs – in all areas. It starts with taxes and levies, ends with climate and energy and covers the whole social sector. I don’t want to question the European model of society, but you cannot preserve the structures of the last 200 years. We won’t be able to afford it.

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