News briefs: How coal could get blacked out of steelmaking

Plus, a 'green' solution for lithium manufacturing, aluminum gets a sustainability label, solar farm fined for pollution

How coal could get blacked out of steelmaking

OK, so you can stop burning coal to make power. But how do you stop burning coal to make steel? As Grist.org reports, 2 billion tons of the key metal are made worldwide each year for bridges, buildings, railroads and many other uses. And the furnaces that melt iron ore consume vast amounts of coal, with the industry accounting for roughly 8% of annual carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutants. But now, a Massachusetts company, Boston Metal, which was spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is using electric currents to make the metal and when powered with renewable electricity, can be completely emissions-free. Donald Sadoway, a professor of materials chemistry at MIT, said he first got the idea for “molten oxide electrolysis” decades ago while researching alternative ways to produce aluminum, another metal made via a carbon-intensive process.

Rising sea levels? Waterlogged Dutch have a buoyant solution

With more than a quarter of their land below sea level, the Dutch are naturally very concerned about rising ocean levels. But, with hundreds of years’ experience in battling seawater with dykes and pumps, they are adept with solutions. The latest, as 800 million city dwellers are predicted to at risk worldwide by 2050, is to build floating houses. In Amsterdam, the country’s largest city, residents and architects have created a buoyant neighborhood of 46 houses called Schoonschip (“clean ship”). The homes are also big on sustainability, says The World Economic Forum, with solar panels and heat pumps provide heating, wastewater from toilets and showers being converted into energy and many having green roofs for growing food.

Solar farm must pay more than $1 million for pollution fiasco

Oh, the irony. The Pennsylvania owners of a giant solar energy farm in Massachusetts have been ordered to pay $1.14 million to clean up a large tract of wetlands and riverfront damaged during construction of the plant in 2018. According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette newspaper, the consent decree, filed in U.S. District Court, settles an April 2020 lawsuit filed by the state’s attorney general alleging that Dynamic Energy Solutions LLC disregarded “fundamental pollution control requirements when it constructed an 18.5-acre solar array on a hillside above the West Branch Mill River, in the western part of the state, said to the AG’s office.

Rio Tinto cooks up sustainability label for aluminum

Aluminum is a key component in electric vehicles — and is already used for the bodies of Ford’s pickup trucks — but production of the lightweight metal can be messy. For instance, there’s the mining and the smelting, both of which are environmentally impactful. With this in mind, major miner Rio Tinto (RIO), the world’s second-largest metals and mining corporation, is introducing a new sustainability label for the aluminum industry that aims to set a standard for transparency and traceability. Named START, the label was created, reports BusinessGreen.com, to help the Anglo-Australian corporation’s customers meet consumer demand to know where and how the products they buy are made.

Aussie tycoon revs up a ‘green’ lithium solution

Lithium batteries are great for powering electric cars and other green energy solutions. What’s not so great is the carbon dioxide produced during their manufacture. However, an Australian mining billionaire, Gina Rinehart, is set to finance a project in southern Germany that can extract lithium using energy from a geothermal power plant. According to Bloomberg, Rinehart is plowing $92 million into Aussie startup Vulcan Energy Resources, which has initiated the project with the European market in mind. Vulcan’s stock has risen more than threefold since the beginning of the year.