The U.S. pavement industry is slowly starting down a more environmentally friendly road — and quite literally. Several companies have begun to switch over to green asphalt production in order to keep our country cooler. The newly adopted process keeps emissions down, though it is not as new an idea as many may think. And no, it’s not actually green, either.
Less Heat Required
Traditional asphalt is a sticky byproduct of crude oil. In its extracted state it is too thick to lay down, so it must be heated to 300-350 degrees Fahrenheit to facilitate pumping and applying. The new “green asphalt,” also referred to as cool- or warm-mix asphalt, only needs to be heated to a fraction of the temperature required for hot-mix asphalt. Reducing the amount of heat needed to produce the asphalt can cut noxious emissions like carbon monoxide by 35 percent. On top of using less energy, green asphalt can be formed from recycled material and plant-based material, releases no toxic chemicals when heated, and saves up to seven times the amount of energy as hot-mix asphalt.
Green asphalt has been growing in the East Coast for the past few years, and now companies like Granite Construction in Utah are spreading awareness through free public paving demonstrations. Cofire Industries is also making strides in producing cool-mix plant-based pothole patches. Advertising the new product to government and city officials is helping to get the green going.
The “green” asphalt looks the same as regular dark asphalt and takes the same amount of time to apply. Production costs less money due to less energy consumption, and may last equally as long as normal pavement, if not longer. It is of little surprise then that Europe has been using it for five years, and for decades in Africa and India. The U.S. has never felt the need to switch to cool-mix asphalt due to its plethora of wealth and resources, but a starving economy and warming climate are creating a new demand for earth-friendly products. However, asphalt companies might first want to make sure that no more car companies like General Motors go bankrupt, or else there might not be much use for the green roads after all.