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Ron LambertyNovember 16, 20232 min read

What's Really in that Pipeline?

Navigator CO2 Ventures’ recent announcement cancelling its Heartland Greenway pipeline project due to the "unpredictable nature of the regulatory and government processes," came as a surprise to many in the ethanol industry. At the same time, it couldn’t have been completely unexpected by anyone following those regulatory and government processes the last several months.

The ethanol industry is no stranger to protest, and until now, has largely prevailed because proposed projects complied with and often exceeded requirements detailed in laws and regulations, and elected and regulatory officials acknowledged those facts and defended the projects’ rights to move forward. Both Navigator and Summit Carbon Solutions expected to be granted permits for their proposed CO2 pipelines, since both projects met or exceeded safety requirements and would be constructed to comply with applicable laws on the books at the time the companies applied.

The process became “unpredictable [in] nature” as elected and regulatory officials, in response to protests, created delays to gather information, hold lengthy hearings and enact new regulations, making it difficult or impossible to build a pipeline that was perfectly legal when the project was proposed. Justice delayed is justice denied, and the longer the delay, the less likely a project can be completed in time to receive Federal incentives for building carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) pipelines.

While the public face of pipeline opposition was primarily farmers concerned about landowner rights along with some unfounded fears about pipeline leaks, the most visible grave-dancer after Navigator’s CO2 pipeline cancellation was the Sierra Club, whose Iowa organizer announced, "The people united to resist Navigator at every level in every corner of every state and we won." The Sierra Club has a long history of opposing energy infrastructure projects, employing any available arguments to stall or prevent their construction. They also have a long history of opposing “modern agriculture” and a strong desire to tell farmers what they can do with their land. Strange landowner rights bedfellows, indeed.

The Sierra Club and other enviros call CCS pipelines a false solution to extend the use of petroleum (they say the same thing about ethanol) and won’t believe the CO2 will be used for anything other than enhanced oil recovery. They also cast CCS as profitable plants grabbing tax dollars to make even bigger profits, while in the real world, plants with no CCS ability can’t compete with plants getting a buck a gallon for sequestering carbon on-site. Unless, at 3 gallons of ethanol per bushel, quick — do the math — how much cheaper do they need to buy corn…?