No False Solutions! Citizens Rise Up to Resist Dangerous Carbon Pipelines in the Midwest
By Andy Currier
Iowa is the battle ground where the fate of world’s largest proposed carbon capture and storage pipeline is being decided. Summit Carbon Solutions intends to build a 2,000-mile pipeline to carry CO2 captured from ethanol plants across five states, to eventually inject and store it underground in North Dakota to supposedly reduce carbon emissions. But who truly stands to gain if the pipeline is built? A November 2022 report from the Oakland Institute, The Great Carbon Boondoggle, unmasked the billion-dollar financial interests and high-level political ties driving the project—despite opposition from a large and diverse coalition of Indigenous groups, farmers, and environmentalists.
The promoters of the project have failed to reckon with the evidence exposing carbon capture and storage (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." Crucially, the ability to capture and safely contain CO2 permanently underground is a dangerous uncertainty given CO2 must be stored for thousands of years without leaking to effectively reduce emissions.
Having failed to persuade enough landowners in Iowa to sign voluntary easements to construct the pipeline, Summit is now hoping to obtain the land through eminent domain, which will be decided by the three-member Iowa Utilities Board (IUB). There are legitimate concerns about the independence of the IUB given the connections each member has to Summit and its CEO, Bruce Rastetter—an agribusiness baron and conservative political influencer with a record of prioritizing profit over the public good. Though officially mandated to ensure Iowans benefit from infrastructure projects, the IUB has a troubling history of supporting controversial projects, including the Dakota Access Pipeline.
On January 17, 2023, a coalition of community organizations in Iowa delivered the Oakland Institute's exposé to the IUB, Summit's lawyer, and Governor Reynolds at the Iowa State Capitol. They made clear their opposition to carbon pipelines and called for meaningful action. Jaylen Cavil, Advocacy Director for the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement, started off the public comment with a resounding message to the IUB: