“Buy Clean” Task Force to Incentivize Lower Carbon Emissions in Manufacturing

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By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE

The Biden administration this week announced its Buy Clean Task Force as part of several initiatives intended to decarbonize manufacturing while boosting the U.S. economy.

On Feb. 15, the administration launched the task force comprised of representatives from the U.S. Depts. of Defense, Energy and Transportation, the U.S. General Services Administration and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Identifying materials to prioritize for consideration in federally funded construction projects is a major thrust of the new task force. The group will study impacts across the materials’ lifecycles, including manufacturing. Launching pilot programs to boost federal procurement of cleaner construction materials is also within the new entity’s purview.

The task force will also seek to increase transparency of emissions produced by the manufacturing of building materials through supplier reporting through incentives and technical assistance for U.S. manufacturers to help them improve reporting and reduce embodied emissions.

The federal government is the world’s largest buyer of goods and services, with an annual purchasing power of more than $650 billion. Lindsay Baker, CEO of the International Living Future Institute, says the U.S. government can move markets and convince manufacturers to engage.

“As more buildings pursue net zero, the share of carbon pollution coming from materials choices will continue to grow,” said Baker. “Buy Clean approaches are critical, both to daylight the big differences in carbon intensity among and across materials and to drive purchasing power at low-carbon options.”

Steel Manufacturers Association VP of Environment and Sustainability Eric Stuart says the U.S. steel sector – which produces the lowest CO2 emissions per ton of steel of the world’s top seven steel producing countries – stands to benefit from a government-structured buying program that recognizes the value of greener products.

“Investments in electric arc furnace steelmaking in the U.S. have resulted in a process that emits only one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions of more traditional processes,” he said. “We’re excited to see the government coming around to recognizing that value and making decisions that will help use U.S. tax dollars to purchase domestically produced materials.”

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