The Great Carbon Boondoggle

I’ve written about a new report from the Oakland Institute titled The Great Carbon Boondogglewhich 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. (See: Oakland Institute Report)

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

Notice how the proposed pipeline route travels past so many Native American reservations. A different pipeline, the Dakota Access pipeline was moved from passing near Bismarck, North Dakota, when the (primarily White) people there raised concerns about contamination of their water. Instead, the pipeline was constructed on the edge of the Standing Rock reservation. These pipeline routes are just one example of environmental racism.

Map courtesy of Pipeline Fighters,

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

I won’t repeat all the work we have done to try to stop carbon pipelines. (See But I want to share our most recent actions yesterday, which included delivering a copy of The Great Carbon Boondoggle to Governor Reynolds.

We’ve been attending meetings of the Iowa Utilities Board, which will make the decision about approving the carbon pipelines. Following is a video of the presentations made yesterday to argue against approval of the pipelines.

Then we met at the Iowa State Capitol, where the legislature is in session.

Photos: Jeff Kisling

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

End notes

[27] Center for International Environmental Law. Confronting the Myth of Carbon-Free Fossil Fuels: Why Carbon Capture Is Not a Climate Solution. July, 2021.
[28] Center for International Environmental Law. Carbon Capture and Storage: An Expensive and Dangerous Plan for Louisiana. June 25, 2021.
[29] Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Danger Ahead: The Public Health Disaster That Awaits From Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS).” February 10, 2022.
[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.
[33] Iowa Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Fact Sheet: Low Carbon Standard, Ethanol and Carbon Capture. August 24, 2022.
[34] Ibid.

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