Carbon Pipelines in the Hawkeye State

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

While ingesting krill in the news flow the other day, I nearly choked on a story that seemed so cray cray, yet so apposite for the zeitgest, that I felt sure it had bipartisan support, and that we were charging ahead with it. And so it proved. The story: Carbon pipelines. Wait, you say. We have our carbon pipelines; they wouldn’t keep spilling gunk all over everything if we didn’t already have them. But these carbon pipelines are different: These are carbon capture pipelines that will convey carbon from sources to sinks, where the carbon will be sequestered, deep underground. Which is great, since nothing will fundamentally change, except for the land under which the pipeline will run, and for the owners of that land. Two such pipelines — the Midwest Carbon Express, and the charmingly named Heartland Greenway System (see? Like Tolkien!) — are proposed for Iowa. Here is a map:

The Des Moines Register explains:

Two companies — Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures — want to build pipelines that will be used to move carbon dioxide captured from ethanol, fertilizer and other agricultural industrial plants.

The companies plan to use pressure to liquify the carbon dioxide, transport it and then inject it deep underground where it will be permanently sequestered. Summit Carbon plans to sequester carbon in North Dakota; Navigator CO2 in Illinois.

Both companies have started the process to get hazardous liquid pipeline permits from the Iowa Utilities Board. Summit says the project, which the company calls the world’s largest, will cost $4.5 billion; Navigator, at least $2 billion.

In this post, I’ll look at carbon pipeline politics (nationally and in Iowa) and technology (unproven and dangerous). Then I’ll look at resistance to carbon pipelines in Iowa, primarily from landowners and Iowa counties, and then conclude. 

Carbon Pipeline Politics

Globally and nationally, carbon pipelines are being framed as an enormous investment opportunity. From the Financial Times, “Oil and gas pipeline groups attempt reinvention with carbon capture plans“:

Wall Street is pushing the [midstream energy sector] to show how it will adapt to demands for a lower-carbon world. In response, pipeline operators are pointing to their potential as a link in carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems, in which CO2 emissions are trapped in underground reservoirs where they can be kept out of the atmosphere. Pipelines would move CO2 from industrial flues to the reservoirs.

The business opportunity is potentially immense. A July report from the Biden administration’s Council on Environmental Quality said that a CCS industry large enough to help meet the country’s goal of “net zero” emissions by 2050 could require 68,000 miles of new CO2 pipelines at a cost of as much as $230bn. That is roughly comparable to US liquid fuel pipeline mileage built since 2000, a boom time for the oil industry.

Consequently, one is tempted to say, the Biden Administration’s Department of Energy is paying attention. From DeSmogBlog, “DOE Quietly Backs Plan for Carbon Capture Network Larger Than Entire Oil Pipeline System“:

An organization run by former Obama-era Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, with the backing of the AFL-CIO, a federation of 56 labor unions, has created a policy “blueprint” to build a nationwide pipeline network capable of carrying a gigaton of captured carbon dioxide (CO2).

The “Building to Net-Zero” blueprint appears to be quietly gaining momentum within the Energy Department, where a top official has discussed ways to put elements into action using the agency’s existing powers.

The pipeline network would be twice the size of the current U.S. oil pipeline network by volume, according to the blueprint, released by a recently formed group calling itself the Labor Energy Partnership. Backers say the proposed pipeline network — including CO2 “hubs” in the Gulf Coast, the Ohio River Valley, and Wyoming — would help reduce climate-changing pollution by transporting captured carbon dioxide to either the oil industry, which would undo some of the climate benefits by using the CO2 to revive aging oilfields, or to as-yet unbuilt facilities for underground storage.

The blueprint, however, leaves open many questions about how the carbon would be captured at the source — a process that so far has proved difficult and expensive — and where it would be sent, focusing instead on suggesting policies the federal government can adopt to boost CO2 pipeline construction.

And Biden’s infrastructure bill (the bipartisan one) funds carbon pipelines, albeit at a start-up level. From E&E News;

After decades of being largely ignored by U.S. policymakers, the carbon removal sector is set to receive a major infusion of taxpayer support.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill President Biden signed into law last month provides $3.5 billion to create four regional direct air capture hubs with the capacity to capture and sequester at least 1 million tons of carbon annually. It also sets aside $100 million for a commercial direct air capture technology prize and $15 million for a pre-commercial competition.

For broader carbon capture efforts, the law provides $2.1 billion in low-interest loans to underwrite large carbon pipeline projects and $2.5 billion for the Department of Energy’s carbon storage program. Those pots of money could support carbon capture efforts at fossil fuel-fired facilities, which aim to prevent new emissions rather than remove carbon already in the atmosphere.

In Iowa, the ruling Republican Party appartus is all in — at least for one of the pipeline companies (!). Iowa political blog Bleeding Heartland, in “New Iowa carbon task force looks like greenwashing,” dicusses the Carbon Sequestration Task Force, which Governor Kim Reynolds established through a June 22 executive order:

Adam Mason, state policy organizing director for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said being excluded from the task force was “especially concerning given the proposed Rastetter and Black Rock CO2 pipelines being proposed as ‘carbon sequestration’ solutions… which we would dub as false climate solutions.”

Mason was alluding to a carbon capture and storage project announced by Bruce Rastetter’s Summit Agricultural Group in February. The company’s news release described Summit Carbon Solutions as “a new business platform that will address the global challenge of decarbonization by developing the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project.” Rastetter called the plan “a giant leap forward for the biofuels industry. Summit Ag Investors President Justin Kirchhoff–whom Reynolds named to the new task force–called Summit Carbon Solutions “a truly transformational project.”

In March, Summit Carbon Solutions hired former Governor Terry Branstad as a “senior policy advisor.”

Texas-based company Navigator CO2 Ventures is also planning to build a carbon sequestration pipeline across Iowa, taking “carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol plants and other agricultural manufacturers.” No one from the company competing with Summit Carbon Solutions is on the new task force. I’m seeking to clarify whether anyone from that project was invited to participate.

Justifying carbon pipelines by using ethanol plants as a BECCS-like carbon source is an especially canny move. From the Des Moines Register:

Iowa is the nation’s largest producer of both ethanol and corn. About half of the state’s corn production each year is used to make the renewable fuel. The state’s 42 ethanol plants also churn out a high-protein byproduct that’s fed to millions of Iowa’s pigs, chickens, cattle and other livestock.

Ethanol accounts for about 10% by volume of gasoline consumed in the United States, although the long-term future of the industry is in doubt with the rise of electric vehicles. (In short form: The ethanol industry is a boondoggle that wouldn’t exist without government subsidy, and creates more carbon than it eliminates. It is also politically untouchable, because of the Iowa primary. So carbon pipelines present the amusing prospect of a boondoggle piggybacking on a boondoggle.)

Carbon Pipeline Technology

There are two difficulties with carbon pipeline technology. It’s experimental, and it’s dangerous.

Carbon pipeline technology is experimental. From Reuters, “Giant pipeline in U.S. Midwest tests future of carbon capture,” underlining that word “test”:

Underground geological formations in the United States have the potential to store 2.6 trillion tons of planet-warming CO2, enough to cover all of America’s historical emissions and those to come for centuries, according to the Department of Energy.

But there are open questions about whether CCS can ever fill them. Despite billions of dollars of public investment over the past decade, the technology remains relatively untested.

The United States boasts just 12 operational commercial CCS facilities that together have an annual capacity to store away 19.64 million tons of carbon, about 0.4% of national emissions.

Many other projects have been proposed but have either failed to reach startup or have been suspended because of financial or operational issues, including the $1 billion Petra Nova plant in Texas last year.

Here is what happened at that Texas plant:

Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University civil and environmental engineering professor, said that carbon capture systems so far have failed to meet the promises of significantly reduced emissions.

For example, a carbon capture system at a Texas coal power plant cut emissions 55% the first year and 70% after three years. But the company, which used the carbon to extract oil, claimed it would capture 90% or more of the emissions, Jacobson said.

The picture worsened when the emissions from coal mining and other activities were taken into account, said Jacobson, who calculated there would have been a 12% reduction in carbon emissions over 20 years had the plant not closed.

Carbon pipeline technology is dangerous. From the Huffington Post, “The Gassing Of Satartia“:

Carbon dioxide has long been used to euthanize laboratory rodents and other small animals, a practice animal welfare organizations now consider inhumane due to the suffering the gas inflicts on the animals. Each year, CO2 accidents kill about 100 workers worldwide — often in basements of restaurants that use CO2-charged systems for their bar mixers — or in industrial accidents.

The company involved is Denbury, Inc.:

Denbury’s entire business is built around piping carbon dioxide to oilfields and a few industrial users in two operational centers in the Gulf Coast and the Rockies. It owns or has an interest in 14 oil fields in Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana, which are connected by five CO2 pipelines spanning 925 miles. Among its properties is Tinsley Field, adjacent to Satartia, which became Mississippi’s first commercially successful oil field in 1939.

And what happened in Sartartia:

“CALLER ADVISED A FOUL SMELL AND GREEN FOG ACROSS THE HIGHWAY,” read the message that dispatchers sent to cell phones and radios of all county emergency personnel two minutes later.

First responders mobilized almost immediately, even though they still weren’t sure exactly what the emergency was. Maybe it was a leak from one of several nearby natural gas pipelines, or chlorine from the water tank.

The first thought, however, was not the carbon dioxide pipeline that runs through the hills above town, less than half a mile away. Denbury Inc, then known as Denbury Resources, operates a network of CO2 pipelines in the Gulf Coast area that inject the gas into oil fields to force out more petroleum. While ambient CO2 is odorless, colorless and heavier than air, the industrial CO2 in Denbury’s pipeline has been compressed into a liquid, which is pumped through pipelines under high pressure. A rupture in this kind of pipeline sends CO2 gushing out in a dense, powdery white cloud that sinks to the ground and is cold enough to make steel so brittle it can be smashed with a sledgehammer.

Even Durward Pettis, a contract welder for Denbury and chief of the local Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department, didn’t figure out that the mystery fog was CO2 for a full 15 minutes. He’d directed first responders to set up three roadblocks to prevent traffic from entering the area. But it wasn’t until 7:30 p.m. that word went out that they’d need self-contained breathing apparatus, or SCBA, to enter Satartia and evacuate the town’s 42 residents, many of them elderly, and about 250 others who lived just outside town. By then, rescuers and residents were already in motion, fleeing the gas or evacuating others.

Even once Pettis figured it out, none of the sheriffs’ deputies and volunteer firefighters had any emergency training in CO2 leaks. Neither did staff at two area hospitals, which had detrimental consequences for gas victims, according to interviews with many of the 49 who were hospitalized.

“It was bad enough that I thought my mama wouldn’t make it, and she still has trouble breathing,” said Army veteran Hugh Martin, who fled Satartia in a pickup truck with his 78-year-old mother as he struggled to remain conscious. “She never had asthma or COPD, now she’s on inhalers full time.”

Even months later, the town’s residents reported mental fogginess, lung dysfunction, chronic fatigue and stomach disorders. They said they have trouble sleeping, afraid it could happen again.

This is really good reporting, singled out by Bloomberg (in a post I can’t find right now, sorry) as a story they wish they’d written.

Resistance to Carbon Pipelines in Iowa

While the state’s political establishment is for the pipelines, Iowa’s landowners are not so sure. From Iowa Public Radio, “Proposed carbon dioxide pipeline draws opposition from Iowa farmers and environmentalists alike“:

“This is just the latest case of someone insisting on putting a pipeline or an easement on our property. I’ve lost track of how many times our family has had to deal with this,” said Beth Richards, whose family farms in Hardin County. “Why should the landowners welcome encroachment on their land for a project that doesn’t pay direct dividends to them other than a vague promise that ethanol is good for corn prices? Why isn’t rent going to be paid for the land or profits shared with farmers?”

Under the company’s plan, landowners would receive a one-time payment for the purchase of an easement and would be compensated on a sliding scale for three years’ worth of crop losses.

Landowners and members of the public raised a slate of concerns on Tuesday, including questions about how the pipeline, buried 48 inches below ground, might affect their property values, the productivity of their land, and whether they would shoulder any liability if the pipe leaked or burst.

“[If] an explosion occurs, since this is a hazardous material,” asked Robert Ritter of Wright County, “who is liable for damage or death in an accident on my land?”

48 inches below ground doesn’t seem very deep, to me. (Meanwhile, Summit is engaging in the time-honered tactic of keeping the names of property owners along the pipeline’s route secret, to avoid owners either jacking up their prices or co-operating against the project.)

Resistance is also taking place at the county government level. From KJAN:

(Radio Iowa) – The Kossuth County Board of Supervisors is formally expressing its opposition to the use of eminent domain for a pair of proposed carbon pipelines that would run through the county if constructed. Eminent domain is the government’s power to declare private property can be converted to a public use, like the pathway for a pipeline. The Kossuth County Supervisors’ letter to the Iowa Utilities Board says it should be up to landowners to decide if they want the carbon pipelines on their property.

We’ll see.


Ticked-off farmers fighting eminent domain can be a powerful obstacle to projects like pipelines. At the same time, “Why isn’t rent going to be paid for the land or profits shared with farmers” doesn’t exactly center environmental concerns, so one has to question how strong any coalition against these pipelines would be. I also question the lack of involvement by the tribes, at least as far as I’ve been able to find; tribal involvement is, to me, near enough to a prerequisite for success in projects involving environmental permitting. Finally, of course, there is the question of what farming should be, and what find of farming Iowa should do. Farmer Paul Deaton writes:

As long as Iowa focuses on ethanol, industrial agriculture using manufactured fertilizers, and monoculture row crops and livestock, the environment will get worse.

Nothing fundamental will change.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. ChrisRUEcon


    I didn’t even know this was a thing … and to be sure, it does sound kinda cray-cray.

    Not sure what the solution is, but I suspect Paul Deaton is right.

    Thanks for posting.

    1. Lunker Walleye

      Ugh. Living in the midst of this and i did not know either. Even subscribe to ragister but rarely read.

  2. Roger Chittum

    The length of these pipelines confirm what my Chem E friend has been telling me: The hardest part of CC&S is finding the right kinds of rocks in which to inject the CO2. If they were commonplace, the pipelines would be short. Capture and transportation are proven technologies, sequestration not so much.

    Like any mining or reservoir problem, it’s not easy to know for sure what is down there and how big it is. Presumably, there will have to be a lot of injection points, and they will have limited service lives. Will the injection part of the sequestration process resemble fracking?

    1. Susan the other

      How does liquified CO2 stay liquid? Won’t it evaporate quickly after it is injected into the rock layer? Better to inject it 30,000 ft. deep in the Marianas Trench. But even with tons of pressure from the ocean, methane comes bubbling to the surface no problem. And if the liquified CO2 is sequestered in multiple rock beds, all over the place, then the lack of pressure (whatever the difference is) will allow evaporation which will be hard to trace because it will probably be everywhere in the background readings. And who knows what nooks and crannies it will spelunk around in while it is finding its way to the surface. This sounds like a complete waste of time and money. There’s no real “capture” here, like forcing the CO2 through a filter of elements that lock it up and precipitate it down to some low-lying grave. You’d think that might even be a useful source of gravel.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      The most promising rock is basalt, as the evidence is that the CO2 mineralises quite rapidly so there is no long term leak hazard. Basalt is extremely common in many parts of the planet (mostly in inner continental areas), but not so much in the US.

      But mostly it seems that current research is focusing on former oil wells (which have convenient voids and impermeable caps, by definition), and as you say, they aren’t found everywhere.

      In the long term, the obvious approach would be to shift a large part of the most carbon intensive industries to areas where there is plenty of renewable energy and lots of suitable geology (parts of North Africa, or Australia as examples). But thats a very long term project.

  3. converger

    Back of the envelope fun with numbers:

    Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline capacity: 12 million tons/year.
    Navigator CO2 Ventures pipeline capacity: 15 million tons/year.
    US carbon dioxide equivalent emissions/year: 6.6 billion tons/year.
    Maximum combined pipeline capacity percentage of annual US carbon equivalent emissions: 0.4%

    So, $1.63 trillion just to build the pipelines to move all of the captured carbon dioxide around. Just in the US.

    Plus the cost and incremental energy demand of collecting and liquefying CO2, plus the cost and energy demand and available geological capacity, somewhere, of pumping several gigatons of carbon dioxide into the ground every year, year after year, and hoping it all stays down there. Starting from zero.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Synoia

      What could possibly go correctly?

      Will the CO2 slowly leak back into the air ?

      We as a race need to stop burying our problems.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        It is not “we as a race” who are burying our problems. It is the Richie Riches ” as a class” who are burying the problems.

        With the fanatical support of several 10 million Coaly Rollers to be sure, but still . . . Richie Rich designed, Richie Rich conducted.

  4. wendigo

    Pretty well conceived grift.

    Because of the danger of global warming these projects have to begin construction before the technology is proven ( with public money ).

    Since burning coal and producing ethanol will be made carbon neutral or even carbon negative it will only make sense to immediately build more ethanol production and more zero carbon coal electricity.

    After spending another few billions of public money for at least a decade it will slowly become apparent it does not work.

    Then someone will come up with the idea to use these empty pipes to provide low carbon emitting natural gas to replace the coal burning plants.

    Every day these pipelines kick the can down the road is one more day of profits.

    And eventually someone will get public money to remove them.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Since Biden has a bipartisanship fetish, his Administration will try to get this legislated and signed before he leaves the Presidency one way or another.

      It is the kind of thing which numerous Republican House members and Republican Senators and Coaly Joe could vote for, and will. Biden will get to strut and brag about his great bipartisan achievement including even winning over the hard-to-woo Senator Manchin. The merchants of fossil will get decades of life-extension for their coal, gas and oil industries and will get to smirk behind closed doors about how “we sure did play those Democrats”, thanks to the determined assistance of Slow Thinkin’ Joe.

      So unless opposition is bitter enough, effective enough, and strange-bedfellows enough, this will get passed and signed during the JoeMalaManchin Administration.

  5. Howard

    No organized tribes left in Iowa, other than Meskwaki on the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama county. The Navigator Ventures pipeline does appear to nick the extreme southwest corner of Tama county, and that is where the Settlement is, so hard to tell at the scale of this map whether or not it encroaches on their land.

  6. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here is an example of a big canal project accidentally having an inadvertent permaculture principles demonstration effect along the side of itself. I had no idea, but now that I know, I might want to go see that “canal-side forest” in the desert some day. I wonder how much skycarbon the ” canal-side forest” has been sequestering since it got started.

    Here is the 6 minute video about it. It is called ” The Canal that Accidentally grew a Forest in the Arizona Desert”. Here is the link.

  7. drumlin woodchuckles

    One other thing the Biden Carbon Pipeline Plans will achieve once passed into law will be a new cycle of hatred between Big Labor and The Youth. Why will this happen? Because Big Labor will support the well-paying good jobs making and laying all that pipeline plus the decades to come of preserving the well-paying good union jobs in coal, gas and oil which the Biden Carbon Pipeline Bill is designed to preserve and increase for decades to come.

    And why will this cause a new cycle of 60s style hatred between Big Labor and The Youth? Because The Youth will plainly see that Big Labor is happy to destroy all life on earth tomorrow for some good union jobs today. Tomorrow’s youth will want revenge on Big Labor for supporting the death of all life on earth just as yesterday’s youth wanted revenge on the Big Labor of their day for supporting the Vietnam War.

    This will be one of President Biden’s biggest and longest lasting achievements. It will achieve and achieve and achieve for the next 30-50 years unless runaway global warming shuts down the civilization before then.

    ” The Youth” will have to try making a strange bedfellows coalition with farmers in the pipelines’ right of way, global dewarming wannabes, Indian Tribes, etc. to beat down and defeat the natural coalition of Big Fossil and Big Labor in favor of carbon pipelines. They will have to accept that Big Labor will hate them for it, and they will have to be willing to “welcome their hatred”.

    It is fair to say that the fascist police unions will not be the only unions to come to be hated by millions of young people.

  8. Tom Pfotzer

    I was wondering why the CO2 was (apparently) liquified at the point of origin (fertilizer or ethanol plant etc.). Compressing gas to a liquid takes a lot of energy, and it produces a lot of (waste) heat. Also liquified gas is really tough on steel pipes – it’s _really_ cold, and the expansion/contraction cycles would be rough.

    So, it’s probably compressed, but probably not liquid at the point it gets into the pipeline.

    I note that there were apparently no Iowa-based coal-fired power plants to be connected to this apparatus. The article mentioned Texas power plants, but not Iowa’s. Iowa has about 72 of them.

    And while it’s great fun to ridicule this idea, the goal of getting a few more years’ use out of existing (and wobbling on the ragged edge of obsolescence) industrial plant has it merits. And not just for Richie Rich.

    And while I’m being uncharacteristically fair, let me point out that a CO2 leak isn’t that dangerous unless you’re in a sealed box with it. A pipeline leak is annoying, but isn’t likely to be fatal unless you’re standing right on top of it, and you get flash-frozen.

    Getting back to ridiculing the idea CO2 pipelines…let’s set the context. The sources of all that CO2 is ag. Here’s Iowa, an entire state dependent upon row crops. In Iowa, and in Kansas and Nebraska – the corn states – much – maybe nearly all – of that row-crop output goes to animal feed, or first to ethanol plants and then to animals.

    Here’s some quick bites on feed conversion:

    Percent/Units of Edible Output per 100 Units of Feed

    Poultry – Calories – 11% – Protein 20%
    Pigs – Calories – 10% – Protein 15%
    Cows/Beef – Calories – 1% – Protein – 4%

    Source is ultimately UN and World Bank, via A Well-Fed World.

    The state’s main industrial operation is, at best, 10-20% efficient. The pig may be 25% efficient, but what did it take to get that food to the pig? Beef cattle? Way worse.

    This is what almost the entire state of Iowa does for a living.

    Ethanol production’s energy-in to energy-out ratio is negative. That industry can’t survive without guaranteed subsidies, and those subsidies show up in the price of gasoline. Feds mandate that 10% of gasoline is ethanol. Take a look at that sticker on the gas pump next time you fill up. Mandated.

    Why do it then? “For energy security”.

    If we go to electric cars, what do you think will happen to ethanol?

    So, this is a great story to help us see that indeed, even in Iowa, people are starting to wonder about the future of their current industrial base.

    There is a silver lining, to some degree, for Iowa. I note that plant-based protein for we humans is starting to sell really well. And it’s getting remarkably good, in a Tater-Tots N chicken-nuggets sort of way. (Speaking on behalf of a friend, of course).

    Plant protein is way more economical and environmentally useful. Have you ever been, btw, to Wichita, KS? That is one huge city-full of ag industrial processing apparatus.

    Just looking for something new and interesting to do.

    Last hit: of course we should worry about all that “sequestered” CO2 leaking out of containment. But who’s to know? Seriously, how would we know? Pressure drop? “Ah, just punched thru to a new cavelet/nook/cranny. It’ll stabilize in a day or 2”.

    Yes, that’s simplistic, but knowing what’s happening hundreds of feet underground, and how big that void is…isn’t straightforward. Plenty of scope for scams, and you know how we love scams.

  9. rjs

    is anyone going to capture the carbon from the diesel fuel used during construction of this massive project? how about the carbon released during steel making, ie, 1.85 tons of CO2 per ton of steel?

  10. drumlin woodchuckles

    If the carbon dioxide pipelines are built and then one of them leaks, not explosively, just steadily and high-yieldingly, do you have to be trapped in a box with the carbon dioxide to die from it? No. And here is the natural event which illustrates that.

    Carbon dioxide is heavier than air and if the leak starts on a windless night ( or even a windless day), the gas will settle out nearest the ground and flow into and pool in any locally lowest elevation area. Enough of it will silently kill everyone in and under it through silent brute force oxygen deprivation.

    The corn-soy feed-to-meat conversion ratios of feeding corn-soy to various meat animals illustrates the inefficiency of the CAFO/Feedlot concept. Most efficient would be feeding grass which people cannot eat to animals which can eat it. Most efficient way and place to grow the grass would be on land too steep for safe erosion-free row cropping. Second most efficient way and place to grow the grass would be to grow it in the present-day corn-soy belt instead of corn-soy. Grow it in spaces between rows of food-bearing perennial woody plants. Humans eat the food from the woody perennials. Livestock eat the mixed-species grass pastures in strips or zones between or among the woody foodbearing perennials.
    Turn carbon-gasoff row crop land into carbon-uptake agroforestry and silvopasture land.

    It was a political-cultural decision to grow corn-soy there to begin with. It would be another political-cultural decision to grow mixed woody perennial crops and pasture-for-livestock between the woody perennials there instead.

    Corn-soy protein from the petrochemical GMO row-crop corn-soy belt is not any more economical or environmentally useful than alcohol and livestock-from-livestock-feed from that same petrochemical GMO corn-soy belt. Carbon-capture beef-on-pasture and woody perennial fruits, nuts and berries from the woody perennials on that same land would economically and environmentally useful. Mark Shephard in Wisconsin is one of the farmers ( so few they can all be named) showing how this is done in Wisconsin.

    If we don’t put any carbon dioxide into rock strata storage under pressure, then we don’t have to worry about it leaking out and causing mass suffocation death incidents like those two volcano lakes in Cameroon.

    Carbon dioxide pipelines is a sneaky little ploy to breathe decades of new life into an industry which deserves to die a permanent death far sooner than that.

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      Drumlin: I agree that a big CO2 leak would settle into depressions and silently kill whatever was there. That said, a leak big enough to displace that much air would get immediately sensed by the pipeline operations gear as a major pressure drop, and auto-shutdown mechanisms on the pipeline would stop the flow. Give these people a little credit for competency.

      Otherwise I agree with all you said at the aspirational level, and nicely done, btw.

      However, and this is a rather large and significant “however”, the work on perennial food crops has a long way to go. As one example, the Land Institute has been working for decades to breed perennial grass that produces grain, using the original prairie grasses as starting genetics.

      They have a very long way to go, and they’re going. It just takes time. I happen to have some hazelnut bushes, from Badgersett in Minnesota, whose function is to produce those nuts you spoke of. They are bred from native American, European, and Chinese stock, and will take further decades to settle out (selection pressure from humans) to produce enough, be economically harvestable, etc.

      The person that drove that genetics development work has invested his lifetime into it. He’s gotten almost no funding, done it on sheer willpower, and kudos to Philip Rutter who ran Badgersett for his vision and tenacity.

      This stuff takes decades – and that’s just the plant development. The gear, the technique, the installed competency – that takes the same decades.

      This is where, IMHO, we progressives fall off the rails. We’ve got a lot of the right aspirations, and little of the tools and know-how (broadly “technology”) to make good on the aspirations.

      We rip into these farmers and entire supply chain they’re part of, and tell them how rotten their system is, while we’re headed to grocery store to stock up. And they think, appropriately, that we’re rather disingenuous.

      Meantime, the farmer’s entire net worth is tied up in Combines and Planters and Fertilizer injectors – farm’s pledged to the loan for that gear, and we’re advocating the rapid obsolescence of that family investment. No surprise that they don’t pay a lot of heed to our objections.

      We’re not going to make a lot of headway on this redesign of the economy subject so long as we don’t acknowledge where the “momentum” is, and how big it is, and what it takes to repoint it.

      So, yeah, carbon dioxide sequestration is another “clean coal” gambit to extend the life of a very badly designed model. Yes.

      That awareness puts us at the two yard line, only 98 more yards to go to get to a viable solution.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Thank you for the kind words. If I have the energy after work ( when I will have the time) I will write a reply doing my best to support my suspicion that the woody-perennial food crops picture is brighter and closer than commonly thought. Unfortunately I don’t have time to do that proper comment now.

        I would only say that the more people who divert their food-spending away from Corporate petrochemical GMO sh*tfood to less corporate, less ( or even zero except for fuel) petrochemical
        clean-genes shinola food, the more the pressure of loosing market share will drive mainstream farmers to adopt the counter-filthy counter-mainstream methods.

        I already pay more for certified organic food in order to avoid petrochemical GMO sh*tfood and avoid its Roundup Residues as much as I can. So I am not the least bit disingenuous myself when I rip into the rotten Corporate petrochemical mainstream GMO sh*tfood system, because I do not patronise that system. I already patronise clean-food countersystems.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Also, about pipeline leaks? Give these people a little credit for competency? After Enbridge Kalamazoo River Marshall Michigan oil pour? After colonial pipeline? After various Enbridge pipeline leaks here and there? After Colonial Pipeline leaks here and there? After DeepWater Horizon?

          No. I have no credit left to give. Carbon dioxide pipelines for carbon so-called “sequestration” must be prevented from ever happening.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        I remember reading an article by ” Mr. Badgersett” himself several decades ago in an issue of CoEvolution Quarterly Magazine. He was working with hazlenuts and chestnuts. But he wanted to do something strange with the hazelnuts which involved all kinds of breeding and hybridization and so forth to get them to do something different than what they had/have heretofore done. I don’t remember what it was.

        There already were ( and still are) several types of hazelnut shrubs and little trees which already produce enough nuts for commercial viability. I see them in many stores in my rich college town, though I don’t know if they are as available in more normal less rich places. But I can already buy hazelnuts in retail quantities from stores which buy them in wholesale quantities to resell retail to customers like me.

        Same is true for Eurasian species of chestnuts, for pecans and some hickories, for several walnut types, almonds, etc. Many fruit-bearing trees , shrubs and bushes also exist and have for hundreds to thousands of years. Whenever you eat an apple, a pear, a cherry, an orange, etc., remember that it is a tree which that fruit came from.

        The orchard knowledge exists and has long existed. Hypermechanized machines now exist for mass-harvesting with very low staffing of some of these fruits and nuts if they are planted in patterns designed for the hypermachine harvesters to access and pick from. So that side of the perennial expertise equation exists now.

        Blending these foodbearing woody perennials into grassland and pasture mixed landscapes, savanah-form foodscapes, etc. is a discipline being more recently studied and worked out ( though the ancients had their forms of it in some cases and these forms are being studied)..

        The Land Institute is on a different mission which may still take decades or which may never be achieved. Meaningful quantities of edible seed from NON-woody perennials in mixed plantings. They are finding out interesting things and deserve support in case they might get lucky. But we don’t have to wait on The Land Institute to use the foodbearing woody perennials and the knowledge and expertise for them which we already have. We can work with them starting right now. And some people are.

        Several threads ago you asked me what my plan was. I don’t have a plan. All I have is an approach. My approach is to do in my own life some things which would make a difference if 150 million other Americans did as much of the same things. Those numbers would make an mass-additive difference to whatever was being aimed at.

        I don’t think we can shift the momentun and direction of entrenched big players and power combines. Those who do think so will do their best work in that direction. People always do their best work based on how they understand the world as they see it functions. The football metaphor ( on the 2 yard line and 98 yards to go) will speak to millions of people and the concepts behind it could rally several million movement joiners to work from that understanding.

        My own understanding of the world around me and where I can fit into it leads me to metaphors like strangler figs, slime mold, army ants, ” ten tons of moles and gophers digging all the soil out from under one side of the Washington Monument”, etc. I sometimes think of the information I bring here as my small part in giving ten tons of little picks and shovels to the ten tons of moles and gophers so they can patiently dig all the soil out from under one side of the Washington Monument until it falls over, metaphorically speaking.

        Ten tons of moles and gophers. One hundred million pairs of strong blue hands wrapped around the neck of Big Koch and Coal, squeezing it flat over the coming years, etc.

  11. Rod

    Great point on an overlooked bit of collatteral damage. What is the cost of a fractured society?

    Tomorrow’s youth will want revenge on Big Labor for supporting the death of all life on earth just as yesterday’s youth wanted revenge on the Big Labor of their day for supporting the Vietnam War.

    and let’s not forget the powerful incentive of 200-350 $$million dollar (10-12% total project cost) rake-off of ‘allowable profit’ on public infrastructure projects…

    saw a handmade yard sign at an intersection several days ago:
    Climate Chaos–that’s a problem for your kids

    it has dissappeared

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The cost of the fractured-in-its-day society of the Vietnam War period, made higher by the cynical Republican operators like Kevin Phillips and Pat Buchanan who worked to deepen and widen the fractures is basically the very very fractured society of our own day.

      And the cost of the fractures being very carefully fostered by various sets of fracture-design engineers will be a super-fractured society tomorrow with the fractures full of liquid violence oozing up from deeper within the political earth.

  12. Hugo

    “No hay mal que dure cien años ni cuerpo que lo resista”.
    (Death solves everything).

    CO2 sequestration is great idea, like replacing steam turbines in power plants with electric motors.

    You can not trick nature. If we do not solve the energy problem with sound science (true knowledge) it eventually will be “solved” by nature. But it will not necessarily be pretty.

    CO2 sequestration is snake oil.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If we cut our energy consumption to half of what it now is, that would half-way solve the problem.

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