Why does the road salt (in the Northeast, anyway) come from far away?
March 2, 2014 2:57 PM   Subscribe

With all these winter storms here in the Northeast (and Midwest and South), I've been hearing a lot about salt supply issues. Supposedly much of it has to come from Chile...but there are plenty of salt mines in North America, aren't there? What about solar evaporation from the ocean right here? Wouldn't such sources save on the costs and environmental impact of shipping long distances? Are domestic sources just exhausted by demand in the Midwest and parts of the South far from ports?
posted by Seeking Direction to Technology (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You would probably be interested in The Surprising History of Road Salt which indicates that 1) yes there is a lot of domestic road salt and 2) places aren't "out" as much as they're having slowdowns with restocking. Loooot more numbers about where Maine's salt comes from.
posted by jessamyn at 3:25 PM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

New Jersey's problem was that their salt comes from Maine, and the only ships available right now to haul it are foreign-flagged. There's a protectionist regulation on the books that forbids any foreign-flagged ship to carry cargo from one American port to another American port, so they can't get the stuff delivered.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:53 PM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

The PVSA, related to the Jones Act which Chocolate Pickle cites, is why you also can't take a cruise between two American ports, say New York to Miami. The trip has to be a round trip from a single port, between two ports in two different countries, or visit a 'distant foreign port' during the trip. (South America or further away)
posted by Hatashran at 6:47 PM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wouldn't such sources save on the costs and environmental impact of shipping long distances?

Shipping (as in literally shipping in a ship) is one of the most energy-efficient modes of cargo transport. Immensely more efficient than a truck driving on a road (cargo ship ~500mpg, truck ~60mpg). Thus, in some circumstances, shipping cargo from a long way away via ship is actually more efficient than driving the cargo a shorter distance on a truck. So depending how far away the domestic salt mines are, domestic salt production is not necessarily more environmentally friendly compared to foreign production.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:31 AM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

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