California's cement industry could be overhauled if Sierra Club California and a Bay Area Assembly member get their way.
A new Sierra Club study says cement production is responsible for 5 percent of carbon pollution globally.
“This is one industry that has managed to keep the status quo even though the science is showing we need to do everything we can to curb greenhouse gases,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California.
Researchers also found that California's cement factories are more polluting than their counterparts in China and India. “I was expecting California, being a green kind of state, to perform better,” said the report’s author Ali Hasanbeigi. “To our surprise we found it is one of the worst performing when it comes to carbon emissions.”
He says few of the state’s cement facilities have taken measures to reduce emissions in the cement-making process of burning limestone to make clinker, the active ingredient in cement.
In response, Oakland Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta is creating legislation that he says will clean-up the industry. “We should be leading, not lagging,” he said. “We need to work with our industry leaders to change that reality so we're in the forefront once again.”
Bonta says the language of the bill is loose and that he'll work with the cement industry.
But Tom Tietz, the executive director of the California Nevada Cement Association, is skeptical, saying that “the report is painting an incomplete, distorted and inaccurate picture.”
He says the California cement industry has reduced emissions by 20 percent since 2000. Still, he admits more can be done by the industry to fight climate change.
“If you think of cement as a building material that can stand the ravages of wind, water and fire there is no other like concrete,” Tietz said. “So, if we’re looking at changes that come with climate change, we’re a very important element to solve that problem.”