Kerry-Lieberman Bill Needs To Do More To Protect Domestic Cement Industry

The energy and climate legislation released last week by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) addresses several issues important to maintaining a strong domestic manufacturing sector.  According to the Portland Cement Association (PCA), however, it does not go far enough to balance protecting the environment and with maintaining American jobs.

“We appreciate the Senators’ efforts to work with industry throughout the drafting of the bill, and will continue to express the concerns of the cement industry to Senators Kerry and Lieberman throughout this part of the legislative process,” said John Shaw, PCA’s senior vice president of government affairs.  “However, more needs to be done in key areas to maintain robust domestic cement production.”

According to a study released this spring by Southern Methodist University’s Maguire Energy Institute, in 2008 the industry employed more than 17,000 Americans and nearly $27.5 billion of the nation’s economic activity, or gross output, occurred in the cement manufacturing industry. Indirectly, the industry supported almost 153,000 jobs and $7.5 billion in wages and benefits.

Portland cement is the powder which acts as the glue that, when mixed with water, sand, gravel and other materials, forms concrete. Cement is an essential construction material for the development of the country’s infrastructure and economic investments.

The industry is concerned that the bill does not create a single national program for regulating greenhouse gases (GHGs), and only preempts U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation of GHGs under the Clean Air Act under certain circumstances.  Additionally, preliminary review of the legislation shows an ineffective distribution system for the pool of allowances, which may result in an arbitrary selection of beneficiaries and losers, creating imbalance between the U.S. and other countries.

“The Kerry-Lieberman legislative does not go far enough to prevent carbon “leakage” through the loss of domestic production and jobs to more carbon-intensive developing nations,” Brian McCarthy, PCA president and CEO said.  “Such a bill will not truly have an impact on global climate change and have a negative effect on the viability of American jobs. Domestic cement production is responsible for keeping America’s construction industry afloat, especially as the nation struggles to regain its economic footing.”

“We sincerely hope the concerns that affect our member companies and their employees can be addressed in any final legislative product that the Senate will consider and the President may ultimately sign into law,” Shaw said.

The cement industry’s commitment to reducing energy consumption is demonstrated by its improvement in efficiency of more 35 percent since the mid-1970s. Moreover, in 2001, the industry adopted a voluntary goal of reducing the amount of CO2 associated with cement manufacturing.

Additionally, concrete is an eco-efficient building material. The energy savings—and associated greenhouse gas emission reductions—from constructing buildings with concrete more than offset the emissions from cement manufacturing during the life of the structure. Moreover, concrete pavements increase vehicle gas mileage compared to soft paving surfaces.

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