Select Page

ACLCA LCA XVII Conference Wrap-up by WorldAutoSteel Technical Director, Russ Balzer

Recently Russ Balzer, WorldAutoSteel’s Technical Director, and one of our own Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Advocates, attended and served as a presenter at a major LCA conference in New Hampshire, US. The American Center for Life Cycle Assessment (ACLCA) sponsored its 17th conference October 3 – 5 in New Hampshire, US, where nearly 300 professionals from academia, government and industry sectors attended.

The following is a Q/A of Mr. Balzer’s take on the conference:

What are some major takeaways from the three-day conference?

There are a lot of highly gifted and very intelligent people working in the field of LCA. Attending (the annual conference) always gives me hope and inspires me to come here and see what is happening across industry, government and academic sectors. I get motivated when I see how many smart, smart people are working on this (LCA). This year, especially, I was inspired by the depth of the steel industry commitment – we had five steel industry representatives out of an attendance of almost 300. These people were from completely different steel organizations being Steel Recycling Institute, Nucor, Arcelor Mittal, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation, and my own company.

What new learnings did you glean this year in comparison to last year’s conference?

The theme of this year’s conference was “Hope and Maintaining Hope.” We tend to look at problems and look at damage. LCA is a way to measure environmental damage, but it’s also a way of taking a hopeful view. There were a lot of interesting presentations that shed light on how LCA can be used for doing positive good. The keynote speaker, Greg Norris, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, said that the mark you leave is an ecological footprint as you’re treading on the environment. Handprints, rather, is the positive good that you do – how can we use these tools to actively do good as opposed to just measuring and limiting damage. Examples of positive good are a circular economy (how does LCA fit into it); emerging technologies like electric vehicles autonomy; and even emerging technologies in maturing markets or new markets. The question is what are the challenges in trying to access emerging technologies in these scenarios. People from the US Department of Energy and various US governmental groups talked about some of the tools that are in development to do this.
Getting a chance to get out of my office and see what’s going on in different sectors and different industries is highly rewarding. Even the agricultural sector is fascinating. I learned that they all face similar types of challenges, whether in automotive or agriculture, and are working on data collection and other LCA-related topics.

Besides you from the steel industry, were there other automotive materials companies represented?

There were representatives from the chemical industry so this means that they were representing the plastics industry.  Other than that, no, steel was the dominant automotive materials industry in attendance

What did your presentation cover?

My talk was called “Investigating Options for Integrating LCA into Automotive Policy”. It was an update to a study that I had presented at the 2015 conference. My three main points were:

A) Tell the story of Why LCA? And, Why Integrate LCA into Automotive Emissions Regulations?

B) Automotive Emissions Regulations Should be Based on LCA – The steel industry has partnered (now in our fifth year) with Dr. Matthias Finkbeiner, Technical University of Berlin, to figure out ways that emissions should be integrated into environmental policy. The study is rigorous and when people hear about automotive emissions, they will automatically think about the study that the automotive steel industry is doing.  (You can download and review a summary of Dr. Finkbeiner’s study on LCA implementation in vehicle policy regulations here.)

C) Automotive Steel is Working with the Most Prominent Global Leaders in LCA
The sub message is that we are trying to convey to policy makers through this study that LCA is necessary. LCA is a mature enough tool to use so it’s viable. Plus, LCA is implementable.

Did you have any attendees from Europe or Asia-Pacific?

Yes, but the bulk of our group was from the US. We did have people from all over the world, though.

LCA XVII Attendance Statistics

LCA XVII Attendance Statistics

Were there other interesting inclusions in the conference program?

One of the things they (the ACLCA) do every year is have an Education Committee. Every year we partner with a university. This year it was one in Quebec. The students actually did an LCA of the conference. They (the students) sent out a survey beforehand and asked us to respond with items related to transportation to/from the venue, the meal plans during the conference, lodging, etc. In other words, the conference is putting their money where their mouth is. It’s a neat project to get the students engaged.