Dec 9, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Heavy industry set to overtake transportation as largest source of U.S. emissions

Data: Rhodium Group; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Rhodium Group; Chart: Axios Visuals

Greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and tailpipes get lots of attention, but a new analysis offers a proposal to cut emissions from another huge source — heavy industry.

Why it matters: The Rhodium Group estimates that industry will overtake transportation as the largest source of U.S. emissions sometime in the middle of this decade (you can see the biggest sources above).

  • And it comes as the incoming Biden administration is vowing new efforts to curb heat-trapping gases across the economy.

The big picture: Their study proposes a "clean products standard" that would cover both goods manufactured and imported into the United States.

  • The topline idea is that it would "establish the maximum amount of [greenhouse gases] per unit of material produced that can be emitted in the production of covered industrial products."

The intrigue: Manufacturers would have lots of leeway to employ methods to meet the standards, such as through the use of low-carbon power and manufacturing feedstocks, efficiency improvements, and carbon capture.

The odds: New mandates — even ones that envision market-friendly mechanisms like credit trading — face immense hurdles in Congress, especially if the GOP retains the Senate.

  • But the analysis also suggests that legislation focusing on government procurement could be an initial step toward wider introduction of the idea.

Read the analysis

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