With the introduction of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), record amounts of money are going towards transportation, making up roughly half of the $1.2 trillion. This gives the U.S. a chance to make roads and overall transportation systems greener.
According to NRDC, NRDC believes agencies must take advantage of the flexibility afforded them by Congress to channel funding towards cleaner alternatives to new roadbuilding, including buses, trains, and electric vehicles. But Secretary Buttigieg must not overlook the opportunity to pair billions in infrastructure investments with programs to purchase low carbon construction materials. Doing so will ensure that whether we are building railways, roads or bridges, we are literally Building Back Better with cleaner concrete, cement, and steel.
The industrial sector, which includes the production of concrete, steel and other widely used building materials, was responsible for 23% of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2019. Because the federal government – and, in particular, U.S. DOT – is a top buyer of these materials for federally funded transportation infrastructure, public procurement is a key lever in growing early markets for low carbon alternatives and driving transformative changes in industrial plants and processes. And because of how ubiquitously these materials are used in our built environment, if U.S. DOT flexed its purchasing power to encourage even modest reductions in embodied emissions, it could add up to major climate impacts.