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The Quest to Clean Up Heavy Industry in America

On a $6 billion federal investment, solar geoengineering rules, and restoring nature

The Quest to Clean Up Heavy Industry in America
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Hong Kong recorded its highest March temperature in 140 years • Miami’s Ultra Music Festival was evacuated due to severe weather • Tornadoes are possible today across east Texas and through the Lower Mississippi Valley.


1. Biden administration backs 33 projects to help decarbonize industrial sector

As expected, the Biden administration today announced that 33 projects have been selected to receive a slice of $6 billion in government funding to speed up the decarbonization of America’s industrial sector. The projects cover some of the most energy-intensive industries, like cement, chemicals, steel, and food production. The Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) expects the projects to cut the equivalent of more than 14 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 3 million gasoline-powered cars. The initiatives are also expected to help create a lot of new jobs, and about 80% of the projects are located in disadvantaged communities. Some project examples here:

  • Century Aluminum Company could get up to $500 million to build a new “green” aluminum smelter that cuts emissions by 75% compared to a traditional smelter due to its energy-efficient design and use of carbon-free energy.
  • Brimstone Energy could get up to $189 million to build its first commercial-scale demo plant to produce carbon-free industry standard cement.
  • ExxonMobil could get up to $331.9 million for its Baytown Olefins Plant Carbon Reduction Project, which would use hydrogen instead of natural gas to produce ethylene, an important chemical used in tons of things like packaging and vehicles.

2. New open-source data set will help public sort through 2,000 electrification incentives

A group of nonprofits is working on an open-source data set that lists every residential electrification incentive in the country. The ambitious project is called the National Open Data for Electrification (NODE) Collective, and it’s being organized by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, Eli Technologies, the Building Decarbonization Coalition, Rewiring America, and RMI, but they’re looking for additional collaborators and stakeholders as they build up the data set for eventual launch. “Government-funded rebates, tax credits, and other purchasing incentives can be a key driver of consumer adoption of pollution-free technologies like heat pumps, yet navigating fragmented and outdated data can be a confusing and frustrating process,” Andre Meurer, head of product at the Building Decarbonization Coalition, said in a press release. The NODE Collective is expected to cover more than 2,000 incentives on offer, from heat pumps and induction stovetops to home battery storage and electric panel upgrades, and the list will be maintained so nothing is out of date.

3. Experts urge NOAA to tighten regulations around solar geoengineering

A group of environmental law professors and policy experts are urging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to tighten the rules around weather modification in the U.S. so they apply more stringently to private solar geoengineering projects. NOAA’s existing rule “requires only a heads-up before experiments to modify the weather,” E&E Newsexplained. In a petition filed this month, the experts requested NOAA update its rule in three ways: First, they want anyone applying to use solar geoengineering (which involves spraying aerosols into the sky to bring down temperatures) to report details of their project that can help gauge potential risks and impacts. Second, the petitioners want to see more reporting requirements for international geoengineering projects that could affect U.S. citizens. And third, they want NOAA to come up with a more comprehensive strategy to study and regulate solar geoengineering activities.

4. EU’s nature restoration law faces uncertain future

One of the European Union’s biggest environmental policies is in trouble. The nature restoration law would require countries to restore nature on 20% of their land and sea by 2030 in an effort to “help achieve the EU’s climate and biodiversity objectives and enhance food security.” More than 80% of Europe's natural habitats are classed as in poor condition. A vote on the law was canceled today after Hungary withdrew support, putting the regulation in jeopardy. The bloc’s green policies have come under increased scrutiny in recent months ahead of EU Parliament elections in June, especially after months of disruptive protests by farmers. However a poll published today found that more than half of European voters see fighting climate change as a priority.

5. EPA continues its crackdown on greenhouse gas smuggling

The EPA last week imposed its largest fine yet to a company accused of attempting to smuggle greenhouse gases into the U.S. Resonac America must pay $416,003 and destroy 1,693 pounds of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) it tried to import illegally on four occasions. HFCs are used as refrigerants but are being phased out because they are “super climate pollutants” with far greater warming potential than carbon dioxide. The U.S. still allows imports of HFCs but only when companies apply for “allowances” – and those allowances are getting smaller each year, with the goal of reducing the country’s HFC consumption and production by 85% by 2036. As the phase-down continues, the EPA wants to discourage the development of an HFC black market by showing zero tolerance on illegal imports. Recently a California man was charged with bringing HFCs in from Mexico.


Brazil has seen a surge in proposed laws requiring water be provided at large events after an extreme heatwave during a Taylor Swift concert last year. The influx has been nicknamed the “ Taylor Swift effect.”


Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London. Read More

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