The American Soda Ash Competitiveness Act, a bill to set the
royalty rate on sodium compounds and related products produced
from federal land at 2% for the next five years, was introduced
by two US Senators on 15 September.
John Barrasso and Ron Wyden presented the bipartisan
legislation to maintain competitive royalty rates on natural
soda ash from the US, allowing manufacturers to compete with
increasingly prolific Chinese production.
"American soda ash producers are battling unfair foreign
trade practices of China and other countries. The last thing
Washington should do is raise costs here at home," Barrasso,
senator for the US state of Wyoming where the US natural soda
ash industry is centred, said in a statement.
Soda ash, or sodium carbonate, is used in the production of
glass, detergents and other industrial goods. In the US, the
majority of soda ash produced from trona, which is found in
high concentrations on federal land in California and
In 2016, the US exported around $1.3bn-worth of soda ash,
according to official US records, around 57.5% of the
country’s total production, making it the second
largest inorganic export from the US in terms of value and
accounting for thousands of jobs in sectors including mineral
production, shipping and manufacturing.
"Natural soda ash produced in the US directly supports
hundreds of jobs in Oregon and, across the country, was the
second largest export for the Port of Portland last year,"
Wyden, senator for the state of Oregon, said.
While over the last 15 years China has grown to become the
largest producer of soda ash globally, according to the
senators this has been achieved through unfair trade practices
such as a 9% rebate on China’s VAT for domestic
producers and the devaluation of the country’s
currency by 4.4% to boost exports.
With the current royalty rate of 4% in the US set to
increase to 6% in October, Wyden said it was the
Senate’s responsibility to ensure the future of
the American soda ash industry. "Continuing the royalty relief
for domestic soda ash keeps the playing field level so American
producers can stay competitive in a global market where China
is gaming the system and producing synthetic soda ash exports
at the expense of US producers and the environment," he
The bill is the Senate companion to HR 1992 introduced on 23
April 2015 by California Congressman, Paul Cook, who said that
protecting the US soda ash industry was a matter of national
At the time, a government press release drew attention to
the lower lifecycle emissions of carbon dioxide from US natural
soda ash production compared to Chinese synthetic soda ash,
which is made from limestone and salt via energy intensive
processes, as well as the lower contributions of sulphur
dioxide, nitrogen, particulate matter and contributors of
"While American soda ash is found naturally, Chinese soda
ash is produced synthetically. Chinese synthetic production
uses twice the energy which results in over three times the
carbon emissions as natural soda ash production," the US
Government statement outlined.