Using funds from last year's infrastructure law, the Biden administration on Tuesday launched initiatives aimed at cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the industrial sector, which accounts for nearly a quarter of all U.S. GHG emissions.
As part of the effort, the Energy Department is preparing to disburse $9.5 billion for three "clean" hydrogen programs, with $8 billion slated to go towards creating at least four regional hubs where hydrogen would be made.
The administration is creating a "Buy Clean" task force to steer part of the federal government's $650 billion in annual spending towards materials like steel, aluminum and concrete that are made using low-carbon processes.
With a goal of having net zero GHG emissions by the middle of the century, the Biden administration is targeting the industrial sector, which produced 23.8% of all carbon emissions in 2020, according to a draft emissions inventory released Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The transportation sector was the leading source of GHG emissions in 2020, accounting for 27.1% of all emissions, followed by the power sector at 24.8% of emissions.
Clean hydrogen can play a key role in cutting GHG emissions from hard-to-decarbonize industries such as ammonia and steel, DOE said Tuesday in a request for information about creating regional clean hydrogen hubs.
Based on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act , DOE issued a request for information to get comments on the $8 billion hydrogen hub initiative, a planned $1 billion clean hydrogen electrolysis program and a $500 million clean hydrogen manufacturing and recycling research program.
Meanwhile, the new interdepartmental Buy Clean task force will recommend potential pilot projects aimed at increasing federal procurement of "clean" construction materials, according to the White House.
The task force will include the departments of Defense, Energy and Transportation, the EPA, the General Services Administration and the White House Office of Management and Budget.
As part of the overall effort, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued interim guidance to federal agencies to make sure the advancement of "carbon capture, utilization and sequestration" (CCUS) technologies is done in "a responsible manner that incorporates the input of communities and reflects the best available science."
To reach net zero GHG emissions goals, the United States will likely have to capture and store "significant quantities" of carbon dioxide, according to a request for comment on the interim guidance.
"The successful widespread deployment of responsible CCUS will require strong and effective permitting, efficient regulatory regimes, meaningful public engagement early in the review and deployment process, and measures to safeguard public health and the environment," CEQ said in the request for comment.
The infrastructure law included $12 billion in funding for CCUS initiatives, which could be used to remove carbon dioxide from power plant emissions.
On the international front, the United States is in talks with the European Union to reach an agreement by 2024 to reduce trade in high-emissions steel and aluminum products, the White House said.
Carbon emissions from the industrial sector must be cut to meet overall emissions reduction goals, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
"With its focus on supporting innovation, using federal procurement to build markets for cleaner industrial materials, trade policy, and economic development, the White House shows it's committed to a holistic industrial policy for the future," Sasha Stashwick, senior advocate in NRDC's climate and clean energy program, said in a statement Tuesday.
The Clean Air Task Force (CATF) supported the administration's plan, saying advances in carbon capture and hydrogen are needed to meet GHG reduction goals.
The advocacy group also called for passing portions of the Build Back Better legislation that is stalled in Congress.
"These efforts would be complemented by the passage of key climate and energy provisions currently included in the proposed Build Back Better legislation, including an improved 45Q tax credit to support carbon capture projects and increased funding for zero-carbon fuels like hydrogen," Conrad Schneider, CATF advocacy director, said in a statement.