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Abstract

Fully decarbonizing U.S. industry is essential to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by midcentury. This paper evaluates the regional, economic, and technical realities of decarbonizing U.S. industry in order to inform state and federal strategies to address this category of emissions. 

The analysis focuses on reducing emissions from four industrial sectors: 1) chemicals, 2) metals, 3) minerals, and 4) pulp & paper manufacturing. It identifies three key technologies that are critical to reducing industrial GHG emissions across these sectors: 1) carbon capture, 2) electrification, and 3) zero-carbon hydrogen. 

Previous research has found that the viability of these technologies will be influenced by local characteristics such as the availability of low-cost zero-carbon electricity, carbon storage resources, and supportive infrastructure. Thus, strategies to reduce industrial GHG emissions will vary widely among sectors and regions. This analysis builds upon previous research to better understand how decarbonization strategies might vary across U.S states and regions. A key insight is that the abundance of carbon storage resources and CO2 pipelines in the Gulf Coast make carbon capture and sequestration a viable technology for industrial facilities located in this region, while abundant and low-cost renewable electricity can be used to electrify production processes or produce zero-carbon hydrogen to reduce emissions from industrial facilities in the Midwest.

This work does not attempt to estimate the economic impact of the transition to a low-carbon industrial system. However, information on how much each industry contributes to state GDP and to state-and county-level employment is presented to provide context for the amount of economic activity these sectors provide in relevant regions.  Many counties and states still rely on the manufacturing sector as an important source of GDP and employment.  

Well-designed policies can accelerate innovation and deployment for a wide array of technologies by taking advantage of regional industrial characteristics and resources. A comprehensive federal and state policy context will help industries decarbonize by leveraging the CO2 storage capacity and cheap renewables where they are most available, and will create a robust innovation environment to move pilot-phase technology to commercial markets. This analysis provides a foundation for developing these critical policies and partnerships. 

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