Cement manufacturers come clean

Wednesday 17 Oct 2007

Shock announcement - cement production produces more pollution than air travel

It had been under the radar until now. While most of the population has been busy worrying about travelling responsibly, the cement industry has been quietly pumping more CO2 emissions into the air than the entire aviation industry.

In an unprecedented move, the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI), made up of the heads and senior staff of 18 leading companies which produce more than 40% of the planet’s cement demands, briefed the world’s press on the extent of the problem: A staggering 5% of the world’s emissions. To compound the issue, Dimitri Papalexopoulos, managing director of Titan Cement said, “No matter what you do, cement production will always release carbon dioxide. You can’t change the chemistry, so we can’t achieve spectacular cuts in emissions.”

The cement manufacturing process depends on burning vast amounts of coal to more than 1,500ºc and the decomposition of limestone, a chemical change which frees carbon dioxide as a byproduct.

Last year, cement manufacture in China alone produced some 540,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide overtaking the US and creating more pollution than the UK. That’s total output from all sources. China is now producing 44% of the world’s cement. Global cement manufacture is forecast to reach over 5 billion tons by 2050.

The extraordinary confession was partly explained by Mr Papalexopoulos who said, “Unlike airlines, cement is not directly visible to the consumer, so cement companies don’t have the same profile. We know there is an issue. If we draw attention to ourselves then we could attract criticism, but we could also have a voice in a regulatory solution.” Howard Glee of CSI confirmed, “Most people are not even aware that making cement produces carbon dioxide. It’s an incredibly low profile business and power companies, transportation and airlines get much more attention…”

Not anymore ......

Next week WAN talks to Howard Klee of the CSI.

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