A Silly Scheme by Green Zealots to Appease the Global Warming Gods?

On the evening of Feb. 22, 2020, Satartia, a small town in Yazoo County, Mississippi, was enveloped in a fog of fetid gas following a loud boom. People collapsed, shaking and breathless, vehicles choked to a halt, and first responders were bewildered. It took four hours to bring the situation under control. Two hundred people were evacuated to safety; 49 had to be hospitalized. Three years later, respiratory problems still plague many residents.

Soon after, Satartia residents learned that the thundering sound and white cloud was caused by the rupture of a 24-inch-thick pipeline carrying compressed CO2, which caused an explosion of ice and CO2. The pipeline was owned by Denbury Inc., a self-proclaimed industry leader in CO2 transportation. Denbury sources the gas from an ancient volcanic cavity called the Jackson Dome and pipes it 40 miles to the Tinsley oilfield for enhancing oil extraction.  The fact that the source happens to be contaminated with hydrogen sulfide, making the gas smell like rotten eggs, most likely limited the number of casualties.  As CO2 is odorless and heavier than air, settling at ground level, it would have asphyxiated people without warning.

As the Biden administration moves toward vastly increasing carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems as a means of reaching the chimerical goal of Net Zero America, that is, net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the Satartia disaster should serve as a warning.  The government has allocated $10 billion for CCS projects, besides grants, funds, and tax credits. CCS involves capturing CO2 from industrial and other sources, compressing it, and conveying it via pipelines for storage in underground geological formations and disused oil wells. Or, it might be used for forcing out more oil from active wells, as Denbury is doing.

As you can imagine, this would involve a huge grid: a Princeton study envisages 65,000 miles of pipelines carrying CO2 across America by 2050. The trunk lines will be four feet in diameter. Currently, there are 50 pipelines – about 5,000 miles – transporting 70 million tons of CO2 annually for enhanced oil extraction. Developers are now seeking permits for multi-state CCS projects that will ferry CO2 from ethanol plants in the Midwest through some 3,500 miles of pipeline.

All this could be at great risk to the ecology, besides exposing numerous human habitations to Satartia-like accidents. Also, the very scientists who advocate CCS are not sure what ultimately happens to the CO2 being pumped underground. They are vague on the long-term effects and risks of such storage. So why is such an unproven, suspect technology being imposed on America?

The answer is simple: the trillions of dollars to be made, not just by CCS providers but also by others in so-called ‘green premiums’ as America chases Net Zero. Climate change, as some distinguished scientists have pointed out, is an elaborate con. Masked in a political agenda, it ultimately benefits the global elite. CCS is one of the lucrative spin-offs of that con.

Nobel laureate John Clauser has dissented from the climate hysteria, along with 1,500 scientists, calling it a “dangerous corruption of science that threatens the world economy and the well-being of billions of people.” William Happer and Richard Lindzen, both distinguished climate scientists, have written that harm from CO2 emissions has been greatly overstated through an “unscientific method of analysis, relying on consensus, peer review, government opinion, models that don’t work, cherry-picking data, and omitting voluminous contradictory data.”

As for CCS, geologist and Carbon Sense Coalition founder Viv Forbes describes it as a “silly scheme devised by green zealots to sacrifice billions of dollars and scads of energy to bury this harmless, invisible, life-supporting gas in the hope of appeasing the global warming gods.” He cites the huge costs involved – for the steel pipelines, pumps, storage devices, drilling, etc – and the perils posed by transport and storage of pressurized CO2, especially when it leaks in lethal volumes from underground reservoirs.

Presently, three companies – Navigator Energy Services, Wolf Carbon Solutions, and Summit Carbon Solutions – are seeking to build a network to ‘decarbonize’ ethanol production in the Midwest, qualify for tax credits, and demonstrate that CCS is a valid climate solution. Across the farming communities of the region, landowners are worried about eminent domain rulings that will wrest easements for a non-public use project that could destroy their farms, cause their property values to plummet, and expose them to gas leaks. They suspect that safety information is being withheld. Already, company-paid surveyors are entering their properties without permission.

Navigator, in partnership with Valero Energy Corporation and the ‘woke’ BlackRock Global Energy, is launching a project for a 1,200-mile pipeline across five Midwestern states. It aims to sequester 8 million metric tons of CO2 annually. It claims to have paid out $16 million for voluntary easements, and is seeking eminent domain for 950 land parcels where owners are holding out. The final permit decision is scheduled for October 2024.

Summit plans to capture CO2 from 31 corn ethanol plants in five states, transport it through 2,000 miles of pipeline, and sequester 18 million tons per year in North Dakota, near the potentially oil-rich Bakken Formation. This could gross the company $600 million annually in tax credits alone. The company has signed easement agreements with 375 North Dakotans along 70% of the pipeline route. It has also sued 80 landowners in South Dakota to pressure them into granting easements. Summit’s founder-CEO, Bruce Rastetter, is a political heavyweight with extensive ties to governors and other public officials in the area. He is engaging his political contacts to grease the skids for the necessary eminent domain to complete his project.

On August 4, the North Dakota Public Service Commission rejected Summit’s permit application, saying it failed to prove the project would produce minimal adverse effects on the environment and the welfare of people. Other points of contention: the company’s refusal to name all its investors, give the number of proposed pumping stations, and make public other details – the latter for ostensible fear of sabotage. It plans to reapply.

Wolf’s proposed pipeline will transport CO2 from two Archer Daniels Midland ethanol plants in Iowa – up to 12 million metric tons annually – to a permanent underground sequestration site in the state. It filed a permit application in June. The company claims the project will generate 3,000 jobs and have a $3.3 billion regional economic impact over 30 years. But residents and environmentalists have raised red flags about the risk of a pipeline rupture in an impoverished minority neighborhood.

The safety and land disruption fears are not unfounded. Steve Higgenbottom, of Wapello County, Iowa, found his property subsiding – despite building remediating terraces – after the installation of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which carries crude oil from North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. The 1,172-mile 30-inch diameter pipeline runs 30 feet below the ground. He has been unable to get the company to fix the problem. His property is now in the path of a proposed CO2 pipeline.

Gas leaking from underground reservoirs can also “kill animals and send ground water foaming to the surface like shaken-up soda pop,” as Cameron and Jane Kerr, who own land above an oilfield in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, found out in 2011.  Giving an account of the damage, Mr. Kerr told CBC News, "We've lost a home, we've got a back yard full of sand and gravel that we don't think we can sell." Cenovus, the oil and natural gas company responsible, pumps CO2 into its Weyburn oil wells to enhance recovery. The Kerrs have also experienced blurred vision and weakness in their lower extremities. 

Paul LaFleur, an independent investigator engaged by the Kerrs, found high concentrations of CO2 in the soil. He attributed them to leakages from underground. Cenovus denies the likelihood of a leak. A later investigation by the government-funded International Performance Assessment Center (IPAC) concluded that the CO2 did not come from underground and that the land was healthy. But LaFleur confirmed in a recent interview that he stands by his assessment.

Considering the many risks involved, CCS appears to be a perilous enterprise of quixotic proportions. Far from being essential for saving us from a climate emergency as many top scientists affirm, it appears to be little more than a lucrative government-incentivized land grab.

Image: Screen shot from CUREnm video, via YouTube

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