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New US Steel Tariffs Cast a Pall Over the Pipeline Industry

New US Steel Tariffs Cast a Pall Over the Pipeline Industry (Media Whalestock / Shutterstock)

President Trump's announcement of a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum has had a poor reception in the United States among energy companies and pipeline manufacturers, who fear they will likely take a hit.

The U.S. oil and natural gas industry depends on specialty steel for many of its infrastructure projects, and U.S. steelmakers don't supply it, said Jack Gerard, the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association for the industry. "The actions taken today are inconsistent with the administration's goal of continuing the energy renaissance and building world-class infrastructure," Gerard said.

There are furthermore doubts that U.S. steelmakers would be able to handle higher volumes and produce all grades of steel necessary for industrial production. In fact, the thickest energy pipelines use a grade of steel that is produced abroad. When President Trump signed an executive order approving the Keystone Pipeline last year, he made headlines by mandating that steel for future pipelines will need to be "made in the USA."

Canada has been on tenterhooks since Trump announced this change in policy. “Steel is important in every part of the oil and gas industry from drilling, production, processing, storage and transportation utilizing pipelines,” Nick Schultz, vice president of pipeline regulation and general counsel for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said in an e-mailed statement. “If Canada is not exempt, these proposed tariffs on steel imports will add a significant burden to the industry on both sides of the border and there could be unintended consequences if there are retaliatory measures taken.”

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