Americans love their macaroni and cheese, devouring millions of boxes each year. But producing all of that gooey yellow pasta takes a toll on the planet, since heating and drying the ingredients requires an enormous amount of energy.
On Monday, the Biden administration took a big step toward tackling those and other industrial emissions as part of its broader climate agenda. The Energy Department announced up to $6 billion for 33 projects intended to curb carbon pollution from industrial facilities, including steel mills, cement plants and a Michigan factory where Kraft Heinz makes its staple food of college dorm rooms everywhere.

Climate Decarbonizing Industries

With an infusion of government money Kraft Heinz will install heat pumps, electric heaters and electric boilers to decarbonize food production at numerous facilities. Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press, file

The funding, which comes from President Biden’s signature climate law and the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law, represents the single largest investment in cutting industrial emissions in U.S. history, according to the Energy Department. It underscores how the administration is racing to get green money out the door before a possible change in control of the White House after the 2024 election.

“These projects offer solutions to slash emissions in some of the highest-emitting sectors of our economy,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on a call with reporters Friday previewing the announcement. “… Plus, the solutions that we are funding are replicable and they’re scalable, meaning they’re going to set a new gold standard for clean manufacturing in the United States and around the world.”

The industrial sector contributes to nearly a third of overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The 33 projects are expected to eliminate more than 14 million metric tons of carbon emissions each year – equivalent to taking about 3 million gasoline-powered cars off the roads for a year, according to the Energy Department.

Nearly 80% of the projects are in disadvantaged communities, the agency said. The private sector will contribute $14 billion of its own funding for a total $20 billion investment in industrial decarbonization.

The Biden administration has unveiled ambitious climate regulations for power plants and vehicles, two leading sources of U.S. emissions. But it has yet to impose new climate controls on industrial facilities, which could prompt pushback from union workers in states key to Biden’s reelection chances. Such controls could become a bigger focus in a possible second term, Biden’s aides and advisers say.


“This is part of a government-wide strategy that looks at the industrial sector,” White House National Climate Adviser Ali Zaidi told reporters on the call Friday.

Transportation now ranks as the biggest source of U.S. emissions, with cars and trucks accounting for the bulk of that pollution, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. But as emissions decline from transportation and energy, industry is poised to become the most polluting sector of the economy in the early 2030s.

Monday’s infusion of federal cash could help bend the curve.

In Ravenswood, W.Va., the aluminum maker Constellium will receive up to $75 million for a first-of-its-kind, zero-carbon aluminum casting plant. The company plans to install low-emissions furnaces that can operate on clean fuels such as hydrogen.

In Mitchell, Ind., Heidelberg Materials will get up to $500 million to capture and store carbon dioxide from one of the country’s largest cement plants. The project is expected to prevent 2 million tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere each year.

And in Holland, Mich., an iconic yellow food is going green: Kraft Heinz plans to cut carbon emissions from its mac and cheese factory by installing clean technologies such as heat pumps. (Overall, Kraft Heinz will receive up to $170.9 million to decarbonize 10 facilities across the country.)


“It takes a whole lot of heat to dry all that macaroni, which produces a whole lot of emissions,” Granholm said. “And so this project is going to deploy clean tech like heat pumps and electric boilers to slash those emissions 99%.”

Granholm this week will travel to three swing states – Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin – to highlight how Biden’s economic agenda is “sparking an industrial renaissance,” according to an Energy Department media advisory. In Ohio on Monday, she is set to tour a steel mill and meet with labor and manufacturing leaders.

Alex Hillbrand, technical director for industry and emerging technologies at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, said the federal funding is a game changer, since the initial costs of cutting industrial emissions can be daunting for companies.

“Heavy industry represents a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and the products that they make in many cases are essential to everyday life, but there are very high capital expenses for new investments in new technologies,” he said. “So it’s the perfect place for the government to step in.”

Joe Quinn, director of the Center for Strategic Industrial Materials at SAFE, a group that advocates for energy security, applauded the $500 million in funding for Century Aluminum. The company plans to build the first new U.S. aluminum smelter in 45 years, helping to bolster domestic supply chains for electric vehicles and other green technologies.

“The Biden administration is now appropriately prioritizing the ‘miracle metal’ as part of our reindustrialization strategy,” Quinn said in a statement. “This is an important first step but our work is far from over.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: