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The Midwest Carbon Express: A False Solution to the Climate Crisis

Carbon pipeline protest in Butler County, Iowa. Source: Anonymous

Carbon pipeline protest in Butler County, Iowa. Source: Anonymous

April 12, 2022

As the world’s largest proposed carbon capture and storage (CCS) pipeline applies for permits amidst growing resistance from concerned citizens, The Midwest Carbon Express: A False Solution to the Climate Crisis, debunks the project and reveals the checkered history of the man behind it — Bruce Rastetter.

Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions is developing the Midwest Carbon Express — a new carbon capture and storage pipeline — that would run approximately 2,000 miles, across nearly a third of the counties in Iowa, before expanding to Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, and South Dakota. According to Summit, the US$4.5 billion project will capture, transport, and store 12 million metric tons of CO2 from its 31 partner biorefineries annually — the equivalent of taking 2.6 million cars off the road each year.

Despite these claims, the Midwest Carbon Express faces strong opposition from diverse stakeholders, including Indigenous communities, Iowa landowners, and environmental groups. The Great Plains Action Society (GPAS), a non-profit advocating for Indigenous communities throughout the Midwest, has instead called for an urgent “reduction and phasing out of fossil fuels as a wider part of a just transition.” Landowners, impacted by the pipeline, have vocally opposed the project during consultation meetings.

The Midwest Carbon Express: A False Solution to the Climate Crisis also examines the credentials of Bruce Rastetter, the founder and CEO of Summit Climate Solutions’ parent company. A prolific political donor who made his fortune in agribusiness consolidating the livestock industry, Rastetter has spent millions on federal, state, and local politics over the past two decades, wielding great influence in Iowa.

In 2011, as CEO of AgriSol Energy, Rastetter acquired over 800,000 acres of land — supposedly three “abandoned refugee camps” — to set up an agriculture enterprise in Tanzania with plans for industrial-scale crop cultivation, livestock production, and agrofuel production. As exposed by the Oakland Institute, the project, however, would have displaced over 162,000 smallholder farmers — Burundian refugees who had been living on this land for over 40 years. The Tanzanian government was promising citizenship to these refugees, contingent on them abandoning their homes and livelihoods so Rastetter could take over their lands — all for the unbelievable price of around 22-23 cents/acre. Sustained citizen action against AgriSol’s project in Tanzania prevented mass displacement, with the project officially abandoned in 2012.

Despite the opposition and permits required, Rastetter anticipates the pipeline will begin construction in 2023, on schedule to be operational by 2024. On February 1, 2022, Summit Carbon Solutions filed its first permit application to the Iowa Utilities Board and requested permission to use eminent domain, indicating that they failed to receive the necessary voluntary easements from landowners. If eminent domain is granted, Summit will be able to force unwilling landowners to cede the land easements at “fair market value.” For eminent domain to be granted, the Board will need to determine if the pipeline serves “public purpose” — something the Iowa Supreme Court granted the state the right to do for the Dakota Access Pipeline construction in May 2019.

The ultimate fate of the Midwest Carbon Express CO2 pipeline is expected to be decided in the next year. The world has already been irreversibly altered by climate change. The Midwest Carbon Express: A False Solution to the Climate Crisis sounds the alarm that there is no time to waste on false solutions promoted by the same interests who have brought us to this catastrophe.

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