White Paper

Decarbonize and Defossilize: Transformative Policies to Reduce Chemical Industry Carbon Emissions

April 29, 2024

The chemical manufacturing sector is the largest and most complex portion of the U.S. industrial ecosystem and is responsible for more than 30% of U.S. industrial emissions. The chemical manufacturing sector is also the industrial sector for which the least progress has been made toward setting a path to zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

The chemicals sector should form the foundation of domestic industrial decarbonization policy. This paper examines whether existing domestic federal policies are sufficient to make meaningful progress toward 1) shifting chemical feedstocks to non-fossil-fuel alternatives; 2) decarbonizing the chemical manufacturing processes (primarily process heat); and 3) shifting market demand toward sustainable chemical products. 

We collected information on over 50 chemical decarbonization and defossilization programs across 9 federal agencies. Overall, the U.S. lacks a comprehensive and holistic strategy to address emissions from the chemical sector. We close with a discussion of potentially impactful policy levers, including shifting demand toward more sustainably manufactured chemical products and making it easier for firms to track indirect emissions up and down their value chains. Such levers could help meet U.S. emissions targets, especially when tailored to individual sectors that produce high-value, high-demand chemical products.

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Suggested Citation

Johnson, Anna, Archibald Fraser, Neal Elliott, and Richard Hart. 2024. Decarbonize and Defossilize: Transformative Policies to Reduce Chemical Industry Carbon Emissions. Washington, DC: ACEEE.


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Emerging Technologies Federal Industrial Policy Embodied Carbon Industrial Electrification
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