First, let me just make this clear: I like steel in cars. I can weld steel very very poorly, and I can’t even begin to work with aluminum. So that’s a plus. But, aluminum is great for cars, and aluminum is more abundant than iron in the Earth’s crust. But FutureSteelVehicle wouldn’t agree.

See, the steel vehicle advocacy group sent this tweet today:

I’m reposting it here because I may as well do some Earth Day-related thing, and also because it’s a very confusing and misleading Tweet, science-wise.

First, there’s the strange cause-and-effect of “Iron (Fe) is the earth’s most prolific element” which then somehow leads to “so Happy Earth Day,” but that’s not the misleading part, exactly. The misleading part is the statement that iron is the Earth’s most “prolific” element, whatever that means.

If they mean “abundant,” than, yes, technically, by overall mass of the Earth, Iron is the most abundant element, at 32.1%. So maybe that’s what they mean by ‘prolific.’ But, if we want to be more practical, we have to limit our measuring of the elements to the Earth’s crust, since that’s all we can actually get at to use. As far as I know, there’s no plans to mine out the iron from the Earth’s molten core.

So, if we check the Earth’s crust, we find that there’s actually more aluminum (8%) than iron (5%). Of course, there was much more iron mined than aluminum, so maybe that’s still what they mean.

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Like everything, this gets more complicated the more you look into it. What I do think is true is that the steel car groups aren’t crazy about how much the industry is moving to aluminum, and if you don’t realize how much of the stuff there is on Earth, great.

But there’s really also plenty of iron for steel, too. And I don’t see cars abandoning steel anytime soon. So I think they can relax. But it’s a good lesson to not take things at face value.

One other important point — the hypothetical car they use on their banner is pretty lame: