NPR gets it wrong on the Oakland-Bay Bridge story
In a story today on NPR's Morning Edition reporter Richard Gonzales examined the long-running construction of the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
The Bay Bridge has been plagued by cost overruns due to flawed steel sections imported from China. Unfortunately, Gonzales focused on the "advantages" enjoyed by the Chinese company, Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries, including "modern production facilities, ships to deliver the steel and, of course, low-cost labor."
Gonzalez misses some key points:
- Labor costs are actually a very small part of the cost of steel production. They have only a marginal impact on steel pricing;
- Shanghai Zhenhua is a state-owned enterprise that receives massive energy subsidies from the Chinese government. These subsidies are actionable under world trade law;
- Beijing’s continuing, illegal currency manipulation enables Chinese manufacturers to underbid U.S. manufacturers.
By contrast, U.S. steelmakers utilize the most modern, computerized facilities in the world. It’s stunning to suggest that Chinese firms would have more “modern production.”
Sadly, the cost overruns resulting from faulty Chinese steel could have been avoided by instead using reliable, American-made steel. As the National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA)has pointed out, U.S. firms did indeed stand ready to supply the steel for the bridge.
What’s really at stake are good-paying U.S. jobs, and the continuing viability of the U.S. steel industry. Gonzales has simply continued some of the inaccurate assumptions that proliferate in the media. If he has real concerns about jobs in America, we hope he'll work to set the record straight.
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