Saving U.S. Steel Industry

No doubt the new owners of the old RG Steel mill in Mingo Junction would like to sell it to someone willing to resume making steel there. As the weeks roll by without solid interest in such a proposition, however, it appears less and less likely to happen.

But if the plant was linked to the alternative energy industry, the outlook probably would be considerably brighter. Help from the federal government probably would be on the way.

After RG Steel entered bankruptcy last year, the Mingo Junction plant was sold to Frontier Industrial, a firm that specializes in demolishing old facilities and, in effect, selling the material as salvage. Frontier paid $20 million for the plant, which includes an electric-arc steel furnace that cost about $110 million when it was constructed in the mid-2000s.

Frontier Vice President Craig Slater told our reporter that though some materials have been removed from the plant, steelmaking equipment remains in place. He added his company hopes to sell the facility to someone who will resume making steel at Mingo Junction.

For decades, however, the U.S. steel industry has been in decline. More and more steel has to be imported from foreign mills. That has meant tens of thousands of jobs lost – many of them in the Ohio Valley. It also has put the United States at a disadvantage strategically. Relying on foreign suppliers for goods critical to our economy is never a good idea.

During the decline, very little assistance has been received from the federal government.

Meanwhile, especially during the administration of President Barack Obama, tens of billions of dollars have been poured into industries favored by liberals in Washington.

For example, the wind power and solar power industries have been subsidized lavishly. Even in situations in which federal officials know certain companies are on very shaky footing, the money keeps coming.

Just last week, when Congress voted on the so-called “fiscal cliff” deal, it included renewal of massive subsidies for companies producing electricity from windmills. On the 10-year basis used for most budget estimates, the deal approved last week is worth $12 billion for the wind power industry.

Government should be allowing the private sector to work without picking winners and losers, of course. But local steelworkers, as well as other Americans who understand the industry’s importance, have every right to wonder why plants such as the steel mill at Mingo Junction are not deemed worthy of rescue by a federal government eager to throw billions of taxpayer dollars to the winds.