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Government to Prioritize Low-Carbon Materials

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Federal agencies will prioritize the purchase of key low-carbon construction materials, the White House announced, the latest action in its Federal Buy Clean initiative. The move drew praise from carbon steel groups, including the American Institute of Steel Construction and the American Iron and Steel Institute.

The AISC said America's structural steel industry stands ready to support that mission, as it has already exceeded the Kyoto Protocol's emission reduction requirements by a factor of seven.

"We applaud the Biden administration's efforts to lower emissions in the construction sector, and we look forward to continued collaboration with the Federal Buy Clean Task Force," said AISC Director of Government Relations and Sustainability Max Puchtel. "As America already leads the world in producing low-embodied-carbon fabricated structural steel and transparently disclosing environmental impacts – all while responsibly complying with environmental and labor regulations – the structural steel industry is uniquely positioned to continue its leadership role and deliver on the administration's Buy Clean and Buy America priorities."

“We are pleased the administration continues to recognize that the American steel industry is leading the way on decarbonization, as reflected in [the] announcement to prioritize the government’s purchase of lower-emissions construction materials for federally funded projects,” Dempsey said. “Of the major steel-producing countries, the U.S. has the lowest CO2 emissions per ton of steel produced. Our entire industry continues to make key investments to further decrease carbon emissions and advance our leadership position on sustainability.”

Because American steel mills use electricity to turn scrap metal into new structural steel beams, the average steel beam or column made in an American steel mill contains 93 percent recycled material. That process emits 75 percent less carbon dioxide than traditional methods – and it's how every single American structural steel beam is made.

By comparison, the Chinese steel industry has three times the global warming potential of domestic steel, the AISC said.

"The hundreds of thousands of Americans in the structural steel industry have been working toward carbon neutrality for decades," said AISC President Charles J. Carter. "The smokestacks are long gone; in fact, the vast majority of the few emissions that remain from structural steel beam production now come from the power grid."