European Aluminium Association

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The European Aluminium Association (EAA) is a lobbying, trade, communications and public image body for the European aluminium industry. It is based in Brussels, close to the European Parliament. Its members are Europe's primary aluminium producers and national aluminium trade associations.

The EAA declares its purpose as;

to secure sustainable growth of aluminium in its markets and to maintain and improve the image of the aluminium industry towards target audiences.

To this end the EAA have been very active in promoting aluminium (one of the world's most polluting industries) as a 'green metal' with many sustainable applications. This has been achieved through public relations, industry-sponsored research on green-applications, and coordinated communication on the issue throughout the international and national aluminium trade bodies.


Influencing the climate change debate

The EAA exerts pressure in the EU parliament on climate change policy. In 2008 the EAA denounced the EU's climate change package. Patrick de Schrynmakers, secretary general said:

Europe will export jobs and import energy intensive products, with no environmental gain
As the legislative process moves forward, EAA exhorts Parliament and member states to protect the sustainability of this important sector of the European economy. [1]

EU-ETS and Carbon Leakage

EAA and the Aluminium Federation as well as other western aluminium trade associations have lobbied national governments and Brussels for exemptions to carbon taxes and restrictions under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. They have argued that restrictions on the European aluminium industry are likely to lead to 'carbon leakage', as companies move to countries with more lax environmental standards where operation would be cheaper. Their lobbying resulted in aluminium being included as potentially exposed to carbon leakage, and therefore entitled to free emissions certificates (carbon credits) and some subsidies on energy costs. Their 2010 Annual report states:

The amended EU Greenhouse Gas (GHG)Emission Allowance Trading Scheme (ETS)Directive was formally adopted in April 2009,with inclusion of the aluminium sector from 2013 onwards. The aluminium industry had been engaged for some time in discussions with the European Commission’s Directorate General for Enterprise on the inclusion of aluminium in the list of industries identified as exposed to carbon leakage. According to the amended directive, sectors identified as such can obtain free GHG emission allowances up to a specified benchmark for their direct GHG emissions and may receive financial compensation from member states for indirect emissions, i.e. increased electricity costs due to the ETS. The aluminium production chain, namely alumina producers, primary smelters and anode plants, recycling plants, rolling mills and extrusion plants, have now been included in the Commission’s list of sectors deemed to be exposed to a significant risk of carbon leakage.[2]

Industry exemptions under the EU-ETS have been criticised by a number of environmental groups and researchers for submitting to the wishes of industry, rendering it ineffective as a climate change solution (See page on Carbon Trading). Larry Lohman discusses how billions of Euro's worth of emissions credits have been given out free to energy intensive industry, while small businesses are forced to comply[3] . The result is that emissions continue to increase (Britain's emissions increased by 18% between 1992 and 2004 according to Defra)[4] and climate change tipping points are in serious danger of being passed, throwing the planet into unstoppable global heating with it's associated suffering.

Greenwashing and propaganda

Interview with EAA Secretary general Patrick de Schrynmakers in SAPA magazine. The depiction of the metal as natural and green is typical of the EAA's greenwash.

The EAA have been very active in promoting aluminium as a 'green metal'. Its website aims to counter potential and past critique by environmentalists and contains long sections which espouse the environmental excellence of aluminium companies in mining and production.

For example, in an EAA press release Patrick de Schrynmakers, Secretary General of the EAA claims:

Today we not only know perfectly what resources it takes to produce aluminium, but our knowledge goes far beyond that. Through structural research & development programs our members help manufacturers of many sorts of consumer products reduce their eco-footprint. Through sustainable design and light-weighting, we are committed to making sure that our products can be easily recycled at the end of their use - a major contribution to a greener world.[5]

The EAA supports, and co-runs the global aluminium industry's sustainability programme Aluminium for Future Generations. They host a website dedicated to promoting 'green' aluminium in Europe [6]

Lightweight vehicles

The EAA (along with other aluminium trade associations and lobby groups) has been instrumental in pushing the potential use of aluminium to create lighter cars and planes which will therefore be more fuel efficient. This benefit of aluminium has been a central plank in the aluminium industry's climate change strategy, portraying themselves as a clean green metal which will save carbon not create it. Some of the more general critiques of aluminium's green status are made at the Aluminium Federation page.

Dr Dietrich Wieser, Alcoa's Director Business Development Ground Transportation Europe spoke at the European Aluminium Congress in Dusseldorf, Germany in 2009, hailing the benefits of aluminium for lightweighting;

Aluminum not only offers significant advantages during the use stage of an automobile, but in particular, also in the end-of-life stage...The infinite recyclability of aluminium, together with its high scrap value and the low energy needs during recycling make aluminium lightweight solutions in automotive applications highly desirable. [7]

These assertions fail to mention that aluminium is the most energy intensive metal to produce and has serious climate change implications along the production chain relative to steel (which uses 95% less energy to produce), or that aluminium emissions are predicted to rise year on year. [8].

More interestingly, the science of life-cycle analysis used to justify the benefits of aluminium vehicles has been co-opted by the aluminium industry and hides some of the climatic impacts of aluminium production. For example the considerable primary and secondary emissions from hydro-electric dams which much of aluminium smelting relies on are not included [9], nor are the climatic effects of rainforest and semi-tropical forest destruction for bauxite mining.

In a 2009 EAA position paper on the European Union's European Green Cars Initiative they demonstrate their intention to work closely with policy makers to secure financial and regulatory benefits for increased aluminium in cars.

The aluminium industry welcomes regulatory initiatives aiming at stimulating the demand for low CO2 emitting cars.
EAA’s Automotive and Transport Market Group chairman Roland Harings points out: “Our industry is highly concerned that, in its current shape, the proposal ignores the most straightforward option for emission reductions which is lightweighting, and which can be applied immediately.”
The European Aluminium Association is therefore ready to help legislators amend the proposal towards more technological neutrality. [10]

Secat (Aluminium research body)'s Subodh Das has helped make the argument for increasing aluminium content in cars through his published research, in collaboration with the Center for Aluminum Technology at the University of Kentucky, of which he is director.[11] He has previously worked for ARCO Aluminium, Alcoa, and sits on the board of the Aluminium Association and is a fellow to the American Society of Metals, demonstrating that he is far from a neutral scientist.[12]

Pushing aluminium vehicles in India

The EAA, along with the Aluminium Association of India (AAI), the International Aluminium Institute (IAI) and The Aluminium Association (USA) have linked up in a campaign to promote 'lightweight' aluminium vehicles in India, a country with one of the fastest growing transport sectors, and most of the world's remaining bauxite. [13]

Due to the latter fact, aluminium companies are well established in India, maintaining close relations with the large hydro lobby and governments pushing this rapid industrial form of 'development'. Das and Padel's research explores the 'neo-colonisation' of India by aluminium companies, and their push to increase per capita demand for aluminium up to Western levels. [14] The EAA are using their well developed 'green cars' argument here to suggest increased aluminium consumption as a climate change policy in India.

Life Cycle Analysis

With the help of academics like Subodh Das, the aluminium industry has participated in laying the foundations of the science of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) right from the start, working with academia, authorities and the consumer to ensure its success.[15] The EAA, alongside the Aluminium Association and International Aluminium Institute have been involved in dominating the aluminium life cycle debate. The industry contributes to the European Platform on Life Cycle Assessment which is developed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. [16]

Patrick de Schrynmakers highlights the advantages of EAA's LCA research in creating a green image for aluminium (one of the world's most polluting industries[17]):

After 10 years of dedication, investment and research, we have come up with state of the art validated methodologies, rigorously collected and thoroughly assessed data to show what resources are saved by using lightweight, corrosion resistant and strong aluminium in products such as cars, trucks, aircraft, food packaging, windows, facades, solar panels and other renewable energy equipment. We have the systems in place to evaluate the benefits of recycling the scrap from end-of-life products - especially in terms of emissions. This enables us to prove that the environmental balance of producing, using and recycling aluminium over and over again evens out, ensuring that our material and the products made of it contribute to a sustainable economy and society.[18]

The language used here is typical of EAA's advanced greenwashing techniques.

Despite this domination of aluminium life cycle science, the EAA has also been critical of the way LCA has been used in comparing between materials and hence making decisions on their environmental credentials. They note that LCA has become a very important and accepted tool for making political decisions.

The EAA's document "Life Cycle Assessment and Aluminium: What you need to know", produced for the European Aluminium Industry critiques several political decisions made using LCA which were not in aluminium's favour. Firstly the Danish government's rate of tax on packaging, and secondly The German government's UBA II study into re-usable glass bottles versus aluminium cans. In both cases they claim that the science was inconclusive and the judgement was subjective and value-based on the part of the assessor, and therefore unfair.[19]

Energy usage in smelting

The EAA's document "Life Cycle Assessment and Aluminium: What you need to know", produced for the European Aluminium Industry admits that aluminium smelting is energy intensive. However they claim that within Europe, Russia and the 'Western world':

'more than 50 % of the energy used to produce the aluminium supplied to the European market comes from hydropower (hydroelectricity), a clean and renewable energy source.'[20]

There is a large body of evidence that large dams in fact have serious climatic implications (see Fearnside [21]) as well as being ecologically damaging in many other ways (see McCully [22]). Further, they are not in fact renewable, generally silting up and requiring costly de-commissioning after 50 years or less[23].

Other sources are:

  • Natural gas 5%
  • Crude Oil 3%
  • Nuclear 15%
  • Hard Coal 20%
  • Brown Coal 5%
  • Hydro-electricity 52% [24]

The document goes on to praise aluminium's recyclability, but admits that:

'Nevertheless, whether aluminium is produced from bauxite or from scrap, these operations are not in competition with each other. They are both integrated and necessary parts of the aluminium material cycle.'[25]

If recycling has no effect on the demand for newly mined aluminium then there is virtually no environmental benefit, as emissions and other damage from raw manufacture have not decreased, though those from recycling will have.

Members

Primary Aluminium

Downstream aluminium companies

European Trade Associations

National Associations

History

Affiliations

Board

Staff

Previous staff

Resources

Notes

  1. Agence France Presse MPs' climate package vote brings little joy for industry October 7, 2008. Accessed 30/04/10
  2. EEA Annual Report 2010 Accessed 14/05/10
  3. Larry Lohmann, "Carbon Trading: A critical conversation on Climate Change, Privatisation and Power", Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, Durban Group for Climate Justice and The Corner House, Oct 2006, p. 31, Accessed April 2009
  4. Roger Harrabin, 'UK in 'delusion' over emissions' BBC News, 31st July 2008. Accessed 02/03/10
  5. EAA Press release [www.eaa.net/en/press-room/press-releases/_doc/399/ 'Aluminum Industry Continues to Add Value to a Greener Europe' June 25, 2009] Accessed 30/04/10
  6. Aluminium for Future Generations EAA. Accessed 13/05/10
  7. Business Wire Alcoa Executive Hails Aluminium's Ability for Lightweight Automotive Design That Increases Fuel Efficiency and Reduces Emissions Accessed 30/04/10
  8. Das, S. and Padel, F. 2010,'Out of this earth: East India Adivasis and the aluminium cartel' Orient Blackswan
  9. Patrick McCully, International Rivers ReportFizzy Science: Loosening the Hydro Industry's Grip on Reservoir Greenhouse Gas Emissions Research Nov 1st, 2006. Accessed 30/04/10
  10. European Aluminium Association, Position papers EAA position on EC's Regulation proposal to reduce CO2 emissions from Light Commercial Vehicles 06 November 2009. Accessed 30/04/10
  11. Subodh Das, C.A. Ungureanu1,I.S. Jawahir, 2007 'Life-cycle Cost Analysis: Aluminium versus Steel in Passenger Cars'in Aluminium Alloys for Transportation, packaging, Aerospace, and Other Applications. Edited by Subodh K. Das and Weimin Yin, The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society, 2007
  12. Aluminium Association News [www.secat.net/news/docs/Aluminium_Association_Board.pdf "Secat’s Subodh Das Elected Member of Aluminium Association Board"] Accessed 30/04/10
  13. 'Aluminium Co's Eye Auto Industry for a Major Push' Nov 5th 2008. Financial express. Accessed 13/05/10
  14. Felix Padel and Samarendra Das, 2010 'Out of This Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminium Cartel' Orient Blackswan. New Delhi.
  15. EAA Press release 'Aluminium Industry Continues to Add Value to a Greener Europe' June 25, 2009 Accessed 30/04/10
  16. EAA website, Environment LCA accessed 30/04/10
  17. Felix Padel and Samarendra Das, 2010 'Out of This Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminium Cartel' Orient Blackswan. New Delhi.
  18. EAA, Press releases Aluminium Industry Continues to Add Value to a Greener Europe BRUSSELS, June 25, 2009. Accessed 17/05/10
  19. European Aluminium Association, 2002 Life Cycle Assessment and Aluminium: What you need to know Accessed 13/05/10
  20. European Aluminium Association, 2002 Life Cycle Assessment and Aluminium: What you need to know Accessed 13/05/10
  21. PM Fearnside Hydroelectric dams in the Brazilian Amazon as sources of 'greenhouse'gases Environmental conservation, 2009 - Cambridge Univ Press
  22. Patrick McCully 'Silenced Rivers: The ecology and politics of large dams' Zed Books, 2001
  23. Patrick McCully 'Silenced Rivers: The ecology and politics of large dams' Zed Books, 2001
  24. European Aluminium Association, 2002 Life Cycle Assessment and Aluminium: What you need to know Accessed 13/05/10
  25. European Aluminium Association, 2002 Life Cycle Assessment and Aluminium: What you need to know Accessed 13/05/10
  26. European Aluminium Assoc website [1]Accessed 22/01/12
  27. European Aluminium Assoc website [2]Accessed 22/01/12
  28. European Aluminium Assoc website [3]Accessed 22/01/12
  29. European Aluminium Assoc website [4]Accessed 22/01/12
  30. European Aluminium Association website. Press releases Novelis’ Tadeu Nardocci, new chairman of the European Aluminium Association Accessed 23/1/12
  31. European Aluminium Association website. Press releases Novelis’ Tadeu Nardocci, new chairman of the European Aluminium Association Accessed 23/1/12
  32. European Aluminium Assoc website ContactAccessed 22/04/10
  33. European Aluminium Assoc website StaffAccessed 22/01/11
  34. 'European Aluminium Association gets new Secretary general'. European Report. November 1, 2000