Cement is one of the most commonly used construction materials in the world.
And while global cement production is responsible for five percent of greenhouse gas emissions, it turns out that not all cements are created equally. The cleanest cement factories can be half as polluting as their dirtiest counterparts.
California offers a good example of what's possible - but also of the work that remains to be done to move toward clean, low-carbon cement across the state, and around the world.
Thanks to state regulations, California's cement makers have worked to cut their emissions.
Some have done a better job than others. But on the whole, cement made in California is linked to less greenhouse gas emissions than most cement.
The cement makers in California like to point out that they've been getting cleaner over time. In one of a series of letters to the California Air Resources Board in 2009 (http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/capandtrade/meetings/041309/apr13pccscme.pdf), the Coalition of Sustainable Cement Manufacturing and Environment (CSCME) wrote: "A ton of cement produced in California generally has a lower greenhouse gas footprint than a ton of cement produced outside California."
CSCME represented the six manufacturers who operate 11 cement plants in California.
Those manufacturers included http://click.emails.sierraclub.org/?qs=d19363c49e66312a5a05a20cca3281f80375491406c01f2ad8a575001f4dd8181477d8374cb94b060be1f7c17b10f97d5ecb0bd4c38c205c Lehigh Southwest Cement Company , http://click.emails.sierraclub.org/?qs=d19363c49e66312aed076e64f880cfb1890d1575bd82238238ae46d382701f8a54a298f1435e5cb7cdd46b56332c1fd286755e062fd3e338 Cemex, Inc. , and http://click.emails.sierraclub.org/?qs=d19363c49e66312a4960f776843cff655f5926f1a953b00d7d2a3527fba3dac2fdb5c839424a9900f5060014aafaa58ce84a5c3902a44523 CalPortland Company. All of these manufacturers are large, international companies or, in the case of Lehigh Southwest, a division of a multinational company, that make cement here and in other states and countries.
Recently, Cemex, CalPortland and Lehigh Hanson, http://click.emails.sierraclub.org/?qs=d19363c49e66312aee436edd63126ae966cc879d376bdaf3b432c21ca9d42966a910e44c16d8e44c036613ceda58ad4d057dc59c52b56cf3 the parent company of Lehigh Southwest, came out in opposition to Assembly Bill 262, the Buy Clean California Act, jointly authored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta and Assemblymember Susan Eggman.
The State of California spends about $10 billion per year, on average, on infrastructure construction. That includes roads, bridges and buildings. The Buy Clean bill essentially requires that bidders who want the contracts for those projects disclose the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the materials that are part of the bid. The bill also requires the state to take that greenhouse gas emissions information into account in the bid review process.
The bill would provide a new way that the State of California can cut its greenhouse gas emissions. It would allow the state to use its purchasing power to signal to manufacturers that the state prefers doing business with manufacturers who are cutting their pollution.
The bill only addresses State of California practices. It doesn't touch private construction or local government construction. But it does follow examples already set by private companies that have for years reviewed the greenhouse gas emissions of materials they purchase, including in construction.
One of the handful of materials identified in the bill is concrete. Not cement. Concrete.
Concrete is a blend of materials that make up the sidewalks and roadways and bridges we all use every day. Cement is one of the materials, along with sand and stones and ashy waste products, used in concrete.
Again, Cemex, CalPortland and Lehigh Hanson came out in opposition to AB 262. They make cement -- which is not included in the bill.
So why would cement manufacturers care enough to oppose AB 262 if cement isn't even mentioned in the bill?
Remember the multi-state, multi-national thing?
The cement companies know this kind of bill will encourage concrete makers to use the cement that creates the least pollution in its manufacture. That means a cement factory that abides by California regulations will have a leg up on a cement factory that hasn't done anything to cut its emissions -- no matter where it is located.
So this bill will put pressure on the multi-state, multi-national cement companies to reduce emissions from their manufacturing plants outside of California.
This all reminds me of other big fights over pollution controls.
Remember the failed proposition to fight California's climate laws? It was pushed and funded by industry interests from outside the state.
Remember the failed proposition to roll back California's ban on plastic grocery bags? It was pushed and funded by industry interests from outside the state.
It's in California's and Californians' best interest to spend taxpayer money in a way that matches our goals to reduce climate pollution. We have to live here.
We want to put our money where our values are.
That's hard, concrete fact.
Kathryn Phillips Director
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