Cement, Steel—And Pasta—Are About to Get Greener

Cement, Steel—And Pasta—Are About to Get Greener

Factories that produce everything from aluminum to pasta are receiving a combined total of billions of dollars in government funding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industry

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm speaking in front of White House signage and Amercan Flag sizing with fingers.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, shown speaking at the White House, announced $6 billion in grants Monday to reduce industrial emissions.


Andrew Caballero Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

CLIMATEWIRE | The Biden administration is launching a shift in climate policy Monday with the awarding of $6 billion in grants to decarbonize the industrial sector with money going to a macaroni plant in Michigan and a blast furnace in Ohio.

Cutting the carbon emissions of industry, particularly cement and steel, have long been viewed as an essential piece of reducing U.S. contributions to climate change. Three years into his presidency, President Joe Biden has centered climate policy on cutting transportation and power plant emissions.

The Department of Energy is giving out $6 billion for projects that aim to demonstrate how to cut the carbon emissions of cement, steel, iron and other industries that account for about a third of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm called it the “single largest industrial decarbonization investment in American history.”

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The grants will “slash emissions in some of the highest emitting sectors” including iron and steel; aluminum; cement; concrete; chemicals; food and beverages; and pulp and paper, Granholm said on a conference call with reporters.

The grants are part of the department’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, which was established in December 2021 to help develop low-emissions energy technology. The new money is funding 33 demonstration projects in 20 states with a goal of having them replicated industrywide, Granholm said.

Most of the money — $5.5 billion — comes from the Inflation Reduction Act. The bipartisan infrastructure law is providing the remaining $500 million. Companies receiving grants will collectively spend $14 billion of their own money on the projects.

“The solutions that we are funding are replicable, and they’re scalable, meaning they’re going to set a new gold standard for clean manufacturing in the United States and around the world,” Granholm said.

Biden has not laid out the specifics of his climate agenda should he win a second term but is expected to prioritize finding new ways to reduce carbon emissions beyond regulations on cars and power plants.

The new grants are a preview of climate policy in a second Biden term — a complex, wonky dive into economic sectors that are often overlooked in climate policymaking.

The 33 projects aim to create jobs domestically while also demonstrating to other countries and U.S. businesses the multiple pathways to meet their obligations under the Paris climate agreement, White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi told reporters on the call.

“When you look at the decarbonization pathways that countries have plotted out to get to net zero by the middle of this century, the area that’s often sort of written off as the hardest to decarbonize is the industrial sector,” Zaidi said. “The Biden administration is showing that there’s no sector that’s too hard to decarbonize.”

Projects receiving funding include low-carbon “SmartMelt” furnace conversion at an aluminum casting plant in West Virginia that manufactures products used in cars, airplanes and rockets. The funding will help install new furnaces that operate on hydrogen and other cleaner fuels and that also dramatically cut air pollution.

Kraft Heinz will cut down on the fossil fuel consumption of 10 of its U.S. food production facilities by installing heat pumps and electric boilers and heaters, including at its factory in Holland, Michigan, which makes macaroni that needs to be heat-dried.

A blast furnace at the Cleveland-Cliffs Steel Corp. plant in Middletown, Ohio, will be retired and replaced by two electric furnaces, sharply cutting its greenhouse gas emissions. Cleveland-Cliffs is the largest supplier of steel to the U.S. automaking industry. The new furnaces will demonstrate hydrogen-based iron-making technology that can be replicated at other facilities.

Cutting the greenhouse gas emissions of the cement industry has long been reviewed by climate experts as a powerful way to cut the nation’s carbon dioxide footprint. Cement and concrete production uses fossil fuels and accounts for almost 10 percent of the global carbon footprint.

In recent years, industry has embraced the possibility of making less carbon-intensive cement.

“This funding from the DOE is a welcome [acknowledgment] from the government that America’s cement manufacturers are taking ambitious and significant steps toward reaching carbon neutrality,” Portland Cement Association CEO Mike Ireland said in a statement.

This story also appears in Energywire.

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2024. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.

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