WASHINGTON, DC—A Resources for the Future (RFF) Issue Brief released today shows that a clean energy standard could substantially cut carbon dioxide emissions from the industrial sector. The authors find that a policy mandating technological upgrades for the highest-emitting 40 percent of facilities in each industrial sector could reduce emissions by as much as 60 percent in some industries.
In 2018, the US industrial sector accounted for about one-fourth of total net greenhouse gas emissions, including direct combustion of fossil fuels as heat sources or feedstock, electricity use, and the release of non-carbon dioxide gases via various industrial processes. In this study, RFF researchers examine the potential for policy-driven emissions reductions in three major industrial sectors: iron and steel, cement, and petrochemicals.
There are multiple federal policy options to reduce industrial emissions. The US Environmental Protection Agency could establish clean energy standards for industry under the Clean Air Act to encourage high-emitting facilities to adopt existing technologies; additionally, the US Congress could mandate new emissions standards, as it did in 1990 when it amended the Clean Air Act to more tightly restrict certain air pollutants.
The authors note that further research is being conducted to expand upon their findings; however, the message of this study is clear: “clean energy standards have considerable potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial sector in the near term, especially if they are relatively stringent.”
Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonprofit research institution in Washington, DC. Its mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement. RFF is committed to being the most widely trusted source of research insights and policy solutions leading to a healthy environment and a thriving economy.
Unless otherwise stated, the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and may differ from those of other RFF experts, its officers, or its directors. RFF does not take positions on specific legislative proposals.