Portland Cement Association Submits Comments to the U.S. Department of Energy

The Portland Cement Association (PCA) recently submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office stating that federal policy and support is vital to accelerate the deployment of technologies that can decarbonize the industrial sector.

The current administration’s sustainability goals match those that PCA has laid out in the Roadmap to Carbon Neutrality to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 across the cement-concrete-construction value chain. Adoption of carbon capture technology is key to achieving these goals.

Cement and concrete have the ability to minimize GHG emissions through concrete materials and structures reabsorbing and sequestering significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Cement and concrete products reabsorb atmospheric CO2 over time during use, post-demolition, and post-recycling through a well-documented physiochemical process called carbonation.

Studies suggest that over the lifecycle of a concrete structure, at least 10 percent of the CO2 emissions generated during cement production are absorbed, providing a safe and permanent sink and reducing the embodied carbon of the building or project.

As cement and concrete products are deployed in the built environment and last significant amounts of time due to the durability and resiliency of cement and concrete, they are continually absorbing CO2 from the air and sequestering the CO2 in the concrete for a long time. Permanently sequestering CO2 using concrete as a carbon sink directly reduces CO2 within the value chain and will help the industry reach the goal of carbon neutrality across the concrete supply chain by 2050.

Cement is a global commodity, and domestic producers face continuing threats from lower-cost, less-regulated imports. As a quintessential energy-intensive, trade-exposed (EITE) industry, the threat of carbon leakage from unilateral domestic policies cannot be overstated.

While the U.S. cement manufacturing industry remains competitive, it faces significant challenges in maintaining that competitive position if federal policies impose overly rigid domestic mandates or new costs without countervailing trade measures. That competitive position is also threatened by well-meaning yet inconsistent state and local GHG emissions regulations that preempt more intentional federal approaches.

Whether price increases arise from carbon taxes or caps, new industrial or material standards, or CCUS capital and operating costs, climate policies that target domestic producers alone risk undermining the competitiveness of the U.S. cement and concrete industry.

One PCA analysis suggests that a mere $20 price on carbon could increase imports significantly unless accompanied by trade remedies that maintain a level playing field. Federal climate policies and procurement programs must take these market dynamics into account or risk destroying the U.S. cement and concrete industry and associated employment base while off shoring cement and concrete manufacturing emissions to other less regulated countries.

The cement industry has been an active participant in the EPA ENERGY STAR Industrial Focus program, partnering with EPA to implement energy efficiency measures. Through ENERGY STAR’s energy efficiency tools and the use of the Energy Performance Indicator (EPI) benchmarking tool, the cement industry has improved its energy intensity by 13 percent, reduced energy savings by 60.5 trillion BTU annually, and reduced 1.5 million tons of energy-related carbon emissions over a ten-year period. The cement industry will continue to improve its energy efficiency through investments and participation in the program.