Future of steel industry in USA directly linked to survival of Range

When he spoke in Ely Dec. 3, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk gave the group an insider’s look at what ails the Iron Range and in turn Minnesota.
The future of the iron mining industry took center stage and Bakk pulled no punches. “There’s no way to save (the mining industry) unless they save it in Washington, D.C.,” said Bakk.
Whether this country moves forward with a steel industry is the real question at hand. There are a handful of states that are on the verge of trying to handle a knockout punch. Minnesota is at the front of the line.
Without a steel industry, it will be nearly impossible for the Iron Range to produce and sell taconite pellets in the future. Without a steel industry, our country will become dependent on other countries at a level never seen before in history.
Bakk and others are calling on the White House to step in and put sanctions in place to save our steel industry. Yet the vast majority of the country benefits from low steel prices. If majority rules, we’re in deep trouble.
In two world wars, it was the iron mined in Ely and across the Range that built tanks, battleships and the materials of war that kept us from speaking German or Japanese today. This begs the question, do we want to give up our manufacturing independence and be a nation without the ability to make steel?
The U.S. produces about 100 million tons of steel annually and imports another 25 million tons. China has an excess capacity of 300 to 400 million tons of steel.
Bakk believes the influx of foreign steel raises a larger issue.
“Do we want to have a domestic steel industry or not?” he said.
As Bakk said, this decision is not going to be made in St. Paul. He is hoping President Obama will follow what President Bush did in 2001 and issue an executive order to save the steel industry.
We don’t know if that will happen. We do know there is a thin layer of comfort knowing that the state senator who represents us holds the Senate Majority Leader position in St. Paul.
Bakk will need every ounce of political power he can muster to make something happen in Washington D.C. He’s got help, from Rep. Rick Nolan to U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken along with the governor. But this is a tall task.
Bakk brought that message to Ely in a meeting filled with different issues, ideas and projects that all have some degree of merit.
A week later we’re struck with the stark realization that for our economic future, revealed in Bakk’s explanation of the potential fate of the steel industry, outweighs all others.