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WFAE reporter David Boraks explores how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

Charlotte Steelmaker Nucor Pledges To Cut Its Greenhouse Gas Emissions

 Nucor's electric arc furnaces can produce steel with lower greenhouse gas emissions than  traditional steelmaking.
Nucor Corp.
Nucor's electric arc furnaces can produce steel with lower greenhouse gas emissions than traditional steelmaking.

Charlotte-based Nucor Corp. is pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions at its steel plants.

Heavy industries such as steelmaking are the third-largest source of pollution that contributes to global warming and climate change, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

In Nucor's annual sustainability report July 15, the company said it will cut its 2015 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 35% by 2030. The Paris Climate Agreement was adopted in 2015.

Nucor, the nation's largest steelmaker, said it will target reductions in both Scope 1 emissions (its own facilities) and Scope 2 emissions (the energy it uses). Nucor will use more renewable energy, expand energy efficiency projects and pursue new technologies such as carbon capture to reach the goal.

Nucor said its mills already pollute less than competitors, emitting just under 1 ton of greenhouse gases per metric ton of steel produced — about half the global average. That's mainly because the company recycles scrap steel and uses more energy-efficient furnaces, known as electric arc furnaces.

"Nucor has been built on a sustainable model of recycling steel to produce new steel and steel products, and we continue to push recycled steel into products where it was never considered viable," Nucor President and CEO Leon Topalian said in a news release.

Nucor said it also will continue to invest in recycled steel manufacturing to supply green industries, such as solar and wind power.

"Steel will continue to be an essential material for our nation's economy, and Nucor is proving that it can be produced in a sustainable way to help the world meet its climate goals," Topalian said.

Three years ago, national and Charlotte environmentalists started a campaign urging steelmakers to stop using electricity generated by fossil fuels. The environmental group Mighty Earth is behind the campaign. CEO Glenn Hurowitz said in email Monday that he hopes companies such as Nucor can eliminate fossil fuels entirely.

“Nucor is right that its electric arc furnace steelmaking method produces lower greenhouse gas emissions than traditional steelmaking," Hurowitz said. "But because it uses electricity in steel, Nucor is well-positioned to go further and shift to 100% clean electricity in its steel-making. With solar and wind prices frequently beating fossil fuels, Nucor could go faster and quicker than most other steel companies.”

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.