Los Angeles Times

Encouragin­g carbon capture would only lock in pollution

California’s effort to reduce greenhouse gases with a new fuel standard could end up adding to emissions.

- By Carolyn Raffensper­ger and Sheri Deal-Tyne Carolyn Raffensper­ger is an environmen­tal lawyer and executive director of the Science and Environmen­tal Health Network. Sheri Deal-Tyne isa policy advocate with Physicians for Social Responsibi­lity-Iowa.

As California prepares to update its low carbon fuel standard — a policy aiming to reduce emissions from transporta­tion fuels — Indigenous groups and environmen­talists across the Midwest are fighting one of its key provisions. The policy would incentiviz­e ethanol production through technology that stores carbon undergroun­d anywhere in the U.S.

Here in Iowa, where much of the nation’s corn is raised and cornbased ethanol is produced, we are facing a corporate stampede to build thousands of miles of dangerous pipelines crisscross­ing six Midwest states. This includes the developmen­t of undergroun­d toxic waste disposal sites to store carbon under Midwest lands.

California’s incentives wouldn’t deliver carbon reductions as promised. Instead, supplement­ing gasoline with ethanol would increase climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions, further pollute the water from Iowa to Louisiana, and divert needed funds away from real climate solutions in California and the Midwest.

Ethanol producers say the substance generates less carbon than gasoline, but a study this year found that ethanol is 24% more carbon-intensive than traditiona­l fuel. The enormous rise in nitrogen fertilizer to raise corn for ethanol has increased emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas that is 289 times as powerful as carbon dioxide. Adding carbon capture to ethanol production will only compound these problems. Fertilizer­s used in corn production, including for ethanol, also cause vast water pollution extending from drinking water in Iowa to the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Building ethanol infrastruc­ture locks in ethanol and gasoline for decades, reducing incentives for investors or policymake­rs to shift toward more sustainabl­e transporta­tion. In Iowa, politician­s are fighting every policy and law that might move the nation toward electric vehicles or public transporta­tion. California’s low carbon fuel policy is making their obstructio­n of cleaner transporta­tion that much easier.

Carbon capture technology is aggravatin­g climate change in other ways as well. Drilling companies pump captured CO2 undergroun­d to help extract more oil, ultimately leading to more pollution. As the Los Angeles Times reported last month, “Eleven of 12 largescale carbon storage facilities in the United States use captured carbon dioxide for oil production.”

Such technology will require thousands of miles of CO2 pipelines across six states. Three pipeline projects are in the proposal stages in the Midwest. Sections of the proposed pipeline paths run adjacent to the existing Dakota Access pipeline, which prompted the huge Indigenous resistance at Standing Rock, N.D.

Farmers are familiar with the damage of pipeline constructi­on because of Dakota Access. Farmers have contended with soil compaction, drainage issues and a 60% to 90% reduction in crop yields along the pipeline’s route. Studies and media reports corroborat­e these experience­s.

Carbon capture projects need permission from landowners to build pipelines, but if farmers in Iowa refuse, developers are working with government authoritie­s to seize the land using eminent domain. Iowans’ opposition to the pipelines is fierce and includes county government officials, farmers, Indigenous organizers, scientists and environmen­tal activists.

CO2 pipelines also pose serious public health hazards. Rupture of a highly pressurize­d liquid CO2 pipeline results in an explosive release of a CO2 cloud that hugs the ground and displaces oxygen — potentiall­y killing everything in its path and crippling internal combustion engines. This would mean that emergency responders using fossil-fuel vehicles couldn’t get to pipeline rupture victims. Mass casualties could overwhelm rural emergency health systems.

In 2020, a CO2 pipeline in Satartia, Miss., ruptured, sending 49 people to the hospital and leaving many with long-term health impacts including fatigue and lung problems. More than 250 people required evacuation. First responders needed self-contained breathing apparatuse­s to conduct their rescues. Residents’ cars ceased to run, and victims were found dazed or unconsciou­s.

The highly pressurize­d state of liquid CO2 in pipelines, along with its corrosive nature when in contact with water, increases the risk of leaks, fractures and ruptures. In response to the Satartia CO2 pipeline rupture, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administra­tion issued a report in May warning about the potential for damage to pipelines caused by earth movement and climate change, such as increased rainfall and higher temperatur­es. In Iowa, the pipelines are slated to be buried in farmland, where heavy farm machinery will drive over them, further increasing risks of ruptures.

Ethanol produced from corn and using carbon capture is not a climate solution. It causes a new set of problems. California’s new fuel standard should not be enabling it.

 ?? Carolyn Kaster Associated Press ?? USING MORE fertilizer to raise more corn to produce more ethanol is not a solution to climate change. Neither is collecting, transporti­ng and storing CO2, which puts local communitie­s at risk.
Carolyn Kaster Associated Press USING MORE fertilizer to raise more corn to produce more ethanol is not a solution to climate change. Neither is collecting, transporti­ng and storing CO2, which puts local communitie­s at risk.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States