When we took the land after the 1832 Black Hawk Purchase, it was decimated to make neatly cut rectangles of farmland. People are used to that now. Today Iowa farmland is used mostly as a production landscape for hogs, cattle, corn and beans. For too long, Iowa’s air, water and land have been used like an open sewer to support these operations. Farmers are used to what they know and don’t want to change. That’s true for people besides farmers.
Iowa is not an empty place where someone can do what they want with the land. A utility should not be able to build pipelines and transmission lines, or construct large-scale wind farms and solar arrays with impunity. The current crop of Iowa farmers is possessive of the right to their land and to use it as they see fit. They believe they know better than government what works here and what doesn’t. They don’t want infringement on their rights. The myth of farmers as the original environmentalists persists despite evidence to the contrary.
When solutions to the climate crisis require cooperation between large corporations and Iowa farmers there is resistance.
The new carbon capture and sequestration proposals of Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures will confront these well-established beliefs. Even though a prominent farmer, Bruce Rastetter, is behind Summit, the rollout will follow a path familiar to anyone who knows the history of electricity transmission lines and oil pipelines here. Farmers will push back.
Donnelle Eller of Gannett stated the obvious about Summit in Monday’s Iowa City Press Citizen, “The company, a spinoff of Bruce Rastetter’s Alden-based Summit Agricultural Group, says the project would help ethanol and other energy-intensive ag industries remain viable as the nation seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 to address climate change.” The Iowa governor spoke about a low carbon economy, but failed to mention climate change or how CCS fits in such a framework. This underscores a key problem with CCS. They are just out there and bottom line, it’s backers don’t give a hoot about climate change. It’s another opportunity for capital investment which could yield big profits.
The sides are already lining up for this fight.
Opponents of CO2 pipelines have also been opponents of the Rock Island Clean Line and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Rural Iowans do not speak of one mind on this yet a common theme is big money, not farmers, are behind these transmission schemes. They claim the voices of farmers are not being heard. They also claim climate change is a lie.
What is the purpose of CCS if not to address climate change? That’s the wrong question. These projects are about investing capital to get a return on investment. If the government is a source of start-up capital, more’s the better for investors. The words “climate change” aren’t needed in this transaction.
“The world must reach net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 in order to achieve the 1.5 degree Celsius global average temperature increase limit,” according to Summit’s website. “A dramatic increase in carbon capture and storage (CCS) is crucial to achieving net-zero CO2 emissions.”
The second sentence is unlikely to be accurate. The problem is Summit and Navigator seek to change nothing about industrial use of fossil fuels. They seek a profit from ethanol plants and other CO2 emitters who keep on doing what they are doing now. CCS has become a gigantic boondoggle instead of a solution to climate change.
“Climate and other environmental and public safety concerns about CO2 pipelines are important,” Ed Fallon wrote in a Nov. 11 email. “But as with Dakota Access Pipeline, in terms of mobilizing the broadest possible coalition of opponents, the strongest argument is the abuse of eminent domain.”
In a filing with the Iowa Utilities Board, Janna Swanson, whose land the Summit pipeline would cross, had this to say about the project and climate change:
There are a whole bunch of plans to mine our tax money for revenue and the excuse is Climate Change. When using that as an excuse then any action against humans is justified.
Summit Carbon Solutions will want the right of eminent domain. They will say that because of Climate Change that their business model is for public use.
When one paints with that wide of a brush then no one’s property is off limits for anything. No one has rights.From an Iowa Utilities Board filing ID 4277288 under HLP-2021-0001 by Janna Swanson
Let’s be clear. Summit and Navigator are in the CCS business to make money, as much of it as they can. Comments like Swanson’s are setting up climate change as a talking point instead of the reality of extreme weather it is and that must be dealt with.
It is early in the process yet already many comments have been made to the Iowa Utilities Board regarding the potential CCS proposals of Summit and Navigator. If you’d like to make a comment, here’s the information.
Written comments or objections to the proposed pipeline can be filed electronically using the IUB’s Open Docket Comment Form, by email to email@example.com, or by postal mail to the Iowa Utilities Board, Attn: Docket No. HLP-2021-0003 (Navigator) and/or Docket No. HLP-2021-0001 (Summit) , 1375 E. Court Ave., Des Moines, IA 50319.
The downside of the CCS approval process is it turns rural Iowans against a second science-based phenomenon. Only 56.5 percent of Iowans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. There is no inoculation against extreme weather made worse by climate change that Iowans already experience.
The resource page I wrote recently has been updated with new information. Check it out by clicking here.
Thanks for getting on this, Paul.