WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) – A representative of manufacturing industries on Wednesday said they would do their part to reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere if the federal government would work with them to incentivize technological innovation.
“It’s time to act on climate now,” Ross Eisenberg, representing the National Association of Manufacturers, told members of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Environmental and Climate Change. “It should not be whether to act, but how to act effectively.”
Eisenberg appeared with representatives of nonprofit organizations concerned with climate change including the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Energy and Resources Policy, the Blue Green Alliance and the Concrete Sustainability Hub.
Committee chair Congressman Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) said the hearing was intended to look at the greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing a wide range of manufacturing products and how to reduce emissions.
“Many are critical to our economy,” Tonko said, “steel, cement, chemicals, fertilizer, glass, paper, aluminum. They are also a large and overlooked source of emissions. We cannot achieve our net zero (emissions) goal by mid-century without significantly reducing industrial emissions.”
Eisenberg said manufacturers in the U.S. had been doing their part to reduce emissions and would continue to do so.
“Over the past decade, manufacturers have reduced the carbon footprint of our products by 21 percent,” he said. “This has increased our value to the economy by 18 percent. We have one of the world’s lowest carbon emissions because we’re so efficient, a fraction of China and India.”
Eisenberg said more ambitious targeted reductions would require dramatic lifestyle changes.
“It’s going to be extremely difficult,” he said. “It will require us to work together around the world and it will carry a cost. It’s not impossible.”
Eisenberg called for a focus on industrial innovation and for the federal government to take action.
“In the eyes of manufacturers, we believe need to do both,” he said. “Innovation will be a key but by itself, it’s not enough. The government has a clear role. Give us the tools to do it (innovate). We need incentives, access to labs, partnerships with government and the private sector.”
Eisenberg called for a global climate treaty among nations that would ensure a level playing field for competition and to avoid outsourcing of products to overseas countries with lower emission standards.
“Congress should consider reducing regulatory burdens to keep manufacturers whole and competitive,” Eisenberg said.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) mentioned the 45Q tax credit, a tax reward for companies that capture and store CO2 carbon emissions.
“Is it having an impact?” Walden asked.
“It is working,” Eisenberg said. “Manufacturers came together around the tax credit to find ways to turn it into innovation on the ground. It’s been mainly gas and oil (producers) but it was a heck of a start.”
Rep. Kathy Rodgers (R-Wash.) asked Eisenberg how government could make innovation less expensive.
Eisenberg recommended legislation such as a bill introduced in July called the Clean Industry Technology Act run through the Dept. of Energy (DOE), designed to promote innovation in emission reduction. He also cited tax reform, fixing permitting processes, and scaling up energy efficiency and exploration of different energy sources.
Jeremy Gregory, executive director of the Concrete Sustainability Hub based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), told the committee that cement and concrete are the world’s two lowest-costing building materials. He recommended improving the efficiency of cement plants, switching to cleaner alternative fuels, improving greenhouse emission capture and storage technology and increase production of blended cement.
Wednesday’s hearing comes amid accusations that climate change activists are attempting to use the court system and litigation instead of legislation to force stricter environmental protections. A website run by oil giant Exxon stated that activists wanted to "use litigation to gain access to internal energy industry documents on climate change, in hopes of creating scandal that would force a settlement similar in scope to the one reached with Big Tobacco."
Lawsuits in New York City, Oakland and San Francisco were tossed out by federal judges on the grounds that climate change and global warming solutions should be accomplished by the government and not the courts.
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