Buffalo Rebellion Community Call: Carbon Pipeline Resistance

Care for Mother Earth and all our relations is why the Buffalo Rebellion coalition was formed. Most of us have been fighting against fossil fuels for many years. In 2013 I was one of about four thousand people in this country trained as Action Leads in the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance. That pipeline was defeated.

There is a renewed urgency as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise. All climate models show we must dramatically decrease greenhouse gas emissions. We have already crossed or will soon cross many environmental tipping points.

Those who had refused to face these truths can no longer do so as the rapidly evolving environmental chaos impacts their families, homes and communities. Kills and injures their friends and neighbors. Suddenly there is a public cry for solutions now, desperately hoping for someone, somehow to stop the environmental violence.

As always, the fossil fuel industry sees opportunities for great profit. Radically reducing burning fossil fuels cannot be done without significantly impacting the lifestyles of those who have wantonly consumed far more than their share of energy. The search is on for some sort of magical solution.

During the recent Buffalo Rebellion Community Call I’ve been writing about, carbon (CO2) pipelines were a focus of attention. Our coalition has had several public demonstrations against these pipelines.
(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/?s=carbon)


Jake Grobe, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Buffalo Rebellion action

Oakland Institute

The Great Carbon Boondoggle

During the community call I learned about a new report from the Oakland Institute titled The Great Carbon Boondoggle, which focuses on the resistance to Summit’s CO2 (carbon) pipeline here in the Midwest. Summit is one of three proposed CO2 pipelines, so far, to be built in the Midwest. The plan is to deliver this report to Iowa Governor Reynolds.

Boondoggle: work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value:

Even a school child would think this idea is crazy. To suck a little CO2 from the air, compress it into a liquid, pump it under pressure (1,000 psi) through hundreds of miles of pipeline to be buried in rock formations. And hope the CO2 doesn’t eventually escape, nullifying the whole thing. This idea of the CO2 remaining where it is deposited is unproven. What has been proven is how hazardous, life threatening it is when the pipeline ruptures.

There is a lot of greenwashing going on. In a situation like this it is helpful if we (pipeline resisters) speak with a consistent message. So, I’m going to use this report to discuss carbon capture and storage. It is great that the Oakland Institute gives permission to share their work.

Map courtesy of Pipeline Fighters, pipelinefighters.org

The report opens with a statement from my friend, Sikowis Nobiss.


NOTE: The following graphic is from Summit Carbon Solutions with an emphasis on safety and permanent storage. There has already been an accident with significant harm to those in the area of the rupture. And there is no proof that the CO2 will remain where it is stored permanently.


Despite these claims, a diverse coalition of Indigenous organizations, farmers, and environmentalists have banded together to stop the project. Opposition has grown across the Midwest in 2022, as Summit attempted to secure the necessary permits and land to begin construction in Iowa. After Summit failed to obtain voluntary easements for the land to build the pipeline in Iowa, it requested the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) to grant eminent domain for the company to take land from the landowners unwilling to voluntarily cede to the pipeline. While the timeline remains uncertain, the IUB will ultimately determine the fate of the project. The Great Carbon Boondoggle

(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/?s=carbon)


Why Is Carbon Capture & Storage A False Climate Solution?


The promoters of the Midwest Carbon Express fail to reckon with the growing body of evidence exposing CCS as a false climate solution. CCS projects have systematically overpromised and underdelivered. Despite billions of taxpayer dollars spent on CCS to date, the technology has failed to significantly reduce CO2 emissions, as it has “not been proven feasible or economic at scale.” [27]

Crucially, the ability to capture and safely contain CO2 permanently underground has not been proven, a dangerous uncertainty given CO2 must be stored underground for thousands of years without leaking to effectively reduce emissions. [28]

It also risks permanently contaminating underground aquifers and poisoning precious drinking water for nearby communities.[29]

Additionally, applying CCS to industrial sources such as ethanol plants requires the creation of massive infrastructure and transportation of carbon to storage sites, and injecting it underground poses new environmental, health, and safety hazards in communities targeted for CCS infrastructure. As carbon capture infrastructure needs to be built near emitting sites, facilities would further impact those already burdened by industrial pollution. [30]

In many cases, this disproportionately impacts lower-income,Indigenous, Black, and Brown communities—furthering a vicious cycle of environmental racism.[31] To date, CCS has primarily been used to prop up the ineffective and environmentally unsustainable fossil fuel energy system. In the US, a dozen carbon capture plants are in operation—the majority of which are attached to ethanol, natural gas processing, or fertilizer plants—which generate emissions that are high in CO2. [32] Over 95 percent of the CO2 captured by these plants is currently used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR)—where instead of storing the captured CO2, it is injected into depleted underground oil reservoirs to boost oil production in wells.[33]

There are legitimate concerns that investing billions in carbon capture infrastructure to lower emissions from fossil fuels and ethanol production will reduce incentives for investors and policymakers to transition towards more sustainable and effective solutions. These include investing in wind or solar energy sources, phasing out of industrial agricultural production, developing infrastructure and services such as public transport. [34]

The Great Carbon Boondoggle


It is disturbing that the Biden Administration is strongly supporting Carbon Capture and Storage.

The Biden administration has hailed CCS and carbon pipelines as vital infrastructure to meet climate targets and claimed that the US needs 65,000 additional miles of pipeline by 2050. [3] The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed in November 2021 provides over eight billion dollars as federal grants, loans, and loan guarantees for carbon storage and pipelines.[4] In 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which substantially increased the already abundant tax credits for CCS projects and made it easier for projects to qualify for these credits.[5] This flood of public money has resulted in over 40 CCS projects announced in 2021 alone. [6]
In Midwestern US, Archer-Daniel Midlands (ADM), Summit Carbon Solutions, and Navigator CO2 Ventures are currently advancing three major CCS projects. The Great Carbon Boondoggle


Endnotes

[3] Douglas, L. “U.S. carbon pipeline proposals trigger backlash over potential land seizures.” Reuters, February 7, 2022.
https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/us-carbon-pipeline-proposals-trigger-backlash-over-potential-land-seizures-2022-02-07
[4] Department of Energy. “Fact Sheet: The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – Opportunities to Accelerate Deployment in Fossil Energy and Carbon Management Activities.” September 29, 2022.
https://www.energy.gov/fecm/articles/fact-sheet-infrastructure-investment-and-jobs-act-opportunities-accelerate-deployment
October 10, 2022).
[5] Gibson Dunn. “The Inflation Reduction Act Includes Significant Benefits for the Carbon Capture Industry.” August 12, 2022.
https://www.gibsondunn.com/the-inflation-reduction-act-includes-significant benefits-for-the-carbon-capture-industry/
[6] Paul, S. “Global carbon capture projects surge 50% in 9 months–research.” Reuters, October 11, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/global-carbon-capture-projects-surge-50-9-months-research-2021-10-12


[27] Center for International Environmental Law. Confronting the Myth of Carbon-Free Fossil Fuels: Why Carbon Capture Is Not a Climate Solution. July, 2021.
https://www.ciel.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Confronting-the-Myth-of-Carbon-Free-Fossil-Fuels.pdf
[28] Center for International Environmental Law. Carbon Capture and Storage: An Expensive and Dangerous Plan for Louisiana. June 25, 2021.
https://www.ciel.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Confronting-the-Myth-of-Carbon-Free-Fossil-Fuels.pdf
[29] Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Danger Ahead: The Public Health Disaster That Awaits From Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS).” February 10, 2022.
https://www.ciel.org/carbon-capture-and-storage-an-expensive-and-dangerous-proposition-for-louisiana-communities/
[30] Ibid.
[31] For example, in Louisiana, proposed CCS infrastructure would impact Black and Brown, lower-income communities living in “Cancer Alley,” the industrial region named after decades of poor air and water quality from industrial pollution increased cancer rates and other health risks. Ibid.
[32] Kusnetz, N. “Fossil Fuel Companies Are Quietly Scoring Big Money for Their Preferred Climate Solution: Carbon Capture and Storage.” Inside Climate News, August 17, 2021.
https://insideclimatenews.org/news/17082021/carbon-capture-storage-fossil-fuel-companies-climate/
[33] Iowa Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Fact Sheet: Low Carbon Standard, Ethanol and Carbon Capture. August 24, 2022. https://psriowa.org/event_ccs2022.html
[34] Ibid.



Publisher: The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (CC BY-NC 4.0). You are free to share, copy, distribute, and transmit this work under the following conditions:
Attribution: You must attribute the work to the Oakland Institute and its authors.
Non-Commercial: You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This report was authored by Andy Currier, Eve Devillers, and Frédéric Mousseau and draws from the previous Oakland Institute publication: The Midwest Carbon Express: A False Solution to the Climate Crisis.
Special thanks to the landowners and Indigenous community members who shared their experiences. Several remain anonymous to protect their identities

The Great Carbon Boondoggle, Inside the Struggle to Stop Summit’s CO2 Pipeline, The Oakland Institute

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