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Transcript: Secretary Buttigieg Remarks on Buy Clean Initiative in Toledo, Ohio

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Thanks, all of you for joining us, it’s really terrific to be here on the heels of visiting Detroit, being at the Detroit Auto Show. And now seeing how all of these pieces fit together so well. And as you know I'm now a Michigander by marriage, originally from South Bend which is not that far up 80/90 to the West from here, and I know how much it means to communities, to the lives and livelihoods, to have healthy industry, and to make things here in America. 

We are faced with a moment that is calling on us to address some of the issues that so many of our communities, especially in the industrial Midwest, have faced: infrastructure that's been around for a long time, and needs some work; vulnerability to climate change, whether it's flooding, extreme heat, increasingly violent weather; people who have a proud tradition of manufacturing and want to know where they fit in at the cutting edge of the economy of the future. 

And the policies we’re announcing today help to speak to all of this: better transportation; new construction materials that help in that fight against climate change; and good union careers in manufacturing right here in America.

After years of those promises about infrastructure week that came and went so frequently that it turned into a punchline in Washington, President Biden finally was able to get it done, signing into law a bipartisan infrastructure package that's allowing us to make these much-needed investments in communities across the country. And as we make those investments, the biggest ones in the better part of a century, to improve the roads and bridges, the airports and ports, the transit systems and the rail of this country, we're going to be using cleaner construction materials that help in the fight against climate change. 

So today, as part of the Biden-Harris Administration's Buy Clean Initiative, our Department, the Department of Transportation is proud to announce our first-ever department-wide policy to lower the carbon emissions of the materials in our infrastructure projects across America. 

That’s going to take a lot of work, but we're here to do it, through better data and reporting, better procurement and purchasing policies, better education and research, and putting our money where our mouth is, two billion dollars in incentives for cleaner materials, we're going to help drive down emissions and fight the climate crisis. 

We're looking at cement mixed with a higher limestone content, steel, like we're seeing here, manufactured with lower-carbon inputs and processes, and so much more.

In the biggest infrastructure investment since our grandparents were coming of age, we are recognizing that this can't be our grandparents’ idea of what infrastructure looks like… it's got to look to the future. And we're acting with the knowledge that the years right in front of us are going to the pivotal ones, and my grandchildren will be asking us what we did during this time to prevent more and more of the extreme weather phenomena that Americans are seeing.

The transportation sector is the biggest contributor to climate change in the U.S. economy - but that statistic even only counts the direct emissions from vehicles, it doesn't include the construction materials that are used in transportation infrastructure, like roads and bridges. 

Government is the largest purchaser of concrete in the U.S., and as that increases even more under this infrastructure law, we know that we have a responsibility to use the purchasing power of our government, to accelerate that move toward modern lower-carbon construction materials. 

So, we're modernizing the transportation systems Americans depend on to get where they need to be. And we're modernizing the materials that are used to build them. 

And it's even better than that. 

As our friends and hosts here at Cleveland Cliffs are showing, producing cleaner construction materials, like those steel plates that are going to keep America’s bridges safe and open for generations to come, that means a lot of good union manufacturing jobs right here in the U.S. 

So this is a win, win, win.

And contrary to the naysayers, what we have seen here in Toledo and here in this region is that American steel companies with a tradition that goes back more than 150 years can innovate and be at the forefront of a growing market. The labor unions that are almost a hundred years old will be right there too, providing the world's best-trained workers to operate this kind of highly-advanced cleaner production technology, like we saw. The President often says, when he thinks of climate change, the first thing that comes to his mind is jobs. And that's what we're seeing right here. And we know that we got to work together to get it done. 

So I couldn't be more excited about the moment that we're in. I find myself surrounded by iron and steel lately; we're investing in a facility in Southern Indiana that's helping get pig iron out off the river and up to the foundry there; we’re investing in that, that iron ore, the docks there in Marquette, in the UP; and now here we're celebrating this work. It's poetic to me to picture the pellets that are coming in on one side of this facility, and the briquettes that are going out on the other side, picturing them going onto those rail cars, and finding their way up into Detroit or wherever they’re headed, maybe Indiana, and being turned into the I-Beam that’s beneath the floor of an office, the steel that's in the car that we're taking our children to school in, or indeed the bridges that the next generation of rail cars are going to go over. All of that flows, flows through this. 

And it's coming at a moment where thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, thanks to the CHIPS Act that’s going to keep manufacturing here in the U.S. in the automotive industry, and so many other things that this President, this Administration are leading, in partnership with our friends in the private sector and the labor movement and the research community. We will look back on the 2020s, on these years we're living through right now, as a moment when America decided to win the future, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of that with you all. 

So thanks again so much for joining us. Thanks for the chance to share this with you.