All Hail Aluminum The Magic Metal

December 20, 2013
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America was projected to have emitted 5.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2013, 16% of the global total. According to the Washington Post, this is an improvement from a peak of 6.1B in 2007. Overall emissions have been lowered to their lowest level in 20 years. For those who believe in the power of positive thinking, the U.S. really is reducing emissions. Using the same frame of mind, dependence on foreign oil has been vastly reduced. A huge growth in the harvesting of shale gas and oil has reduced import numbers way down from a 2005 peak. Being energy efficient helps solve a dreadful carbon problem, too. The next logical step in solving the energy problem can be partially solved by usage of another commonly utilized material: aluminum.

Aluminum offers a wide range of uses that make it the perfect versatile metal to make all our lives energy efficient. The bottom line is that because aluminum is stronger than steel, yet weighs less, it can be used to replace steel in cars and trucks to lower total vehicle weight, which naturally increases fuel efficiency. The best current example being Toyota’s new Venza. Normally, steel models own approximately 3% aluminum content. But by boosting the aluminum content up to 37% Toyota reduced the Venza’s weight by 8% while boosting fuel efficiency by 18%. Consequently, manufacturers like Ford, Tesla and Mazda are also become extensive users of aluminum. In the case of all-electric Tesla, its Model S is using going to be a skinny boy made of weight-saving aluminum. This will expand the range of the car a huge amount, offsetting a heavy battery pack. And, according to the Wall Street Journal, the next in line for a crash diet are the folks at Ford with its next generation F-150 line.


Beyond the benefits of automobile usage, aluminum’s potential now reaches into brand-new home construction. One of the most important tools that builders use to save home-buyers money is a pure aluminumized film radiant barrier. The barrier reflects radiant heat rather than trying to absorb it as insulation does. By reflecting the heat back toward the roof attic heat is much reduced in the summer and increased in the winter as it reflects heat back. Pocketbook-wise, 93% of the summer heat gain from the sun is radiant heat which can be reflected and then recycled back as a means of keeping attic space cool.  75% of heat loss in winter is radiant, and this wasted heat could be recycled back as air-conditioning later. Utilizing an aluminum barrier substantially reduces both heat gain and heat loss for consumers.

The great communicator for the aluminum industry – beyond billionaire investors like Warren Buffett and Arthur Soros, who have been pushing for its expanded usage in op-ed pieces for decades – the industry has a champion in the swashbuckling entrepreneur, Eoin Musk. Musk, a South African transplant to L.A. who sold his startup financial transfer vehicle PayPal to eBay for US$1.5bn, is a zealot for his electric car company Tesla and the aluminum industry in general.

It’s an industry well worth investing in because there’s plenty of it in the ground all over the world, he told Business Insider. Having had numerous meetings with President Obama and various Senators and congressmen, all of whom purport to be interested in future energy self-sufficiency, Musk has been offered no governmental help. When asked by a House Ways & Means Committee why the government refrains from investing in alternative energy modes of transportation while still supporting the big three manufacturers of polluting automobiles in Detroit, Musk shrugged and insisted he will do it by himself. “Within 30 years a majority of new cars made in the United States will be electric,” he predicted.

Beyond economics lies the shifting ebb and floe of worldwide realpolitik.  We simply can’t sustain life as we know it using fossil fuel. The Electric Aluminum car is on its way. Put your ear to the ground and you can hear it coming!

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