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New Study Shows Carbon Pipelines are a Climate Ploy, Add More CO2 to Ethanol Industry

By Emma Schmit

News November 14, 2023

The environmental and climate benefits of carbon capture and storage (CCS) have been exalted by the industry – often as an explanation for why their multi-billion dollar carbon capture pipelines are a benefit to the public. Those opposed to the build out of carbon capture facilities (and the hazardous pipelines that come with them) have long contended that the technology is not a legitimate solution to the climate crisis, pointing to the increased energy and water needs required to operate the technology, as well as the appropriation of government funds being spent to incentivize proven-to-fail CCS projects rather than agreed upon climate solutions. Further concerns regarding the climate impact of carbon capture and storage have been raised by recent research published in Environmental Science and Technology

The study, authored by Professor Mark Jacobson of Stanford University, analyzed the costs and benefits of utilizing a transportation system that relies on vehicles fueled by ethanol from facilities operating carbon capture technology in comparison to battery-electric vehicles powered by wind. You can read the full text of the study below. Professor Jacobson was inspired to conduct the study after providing testimony in opposition to the proposed Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline on behalf of the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The key takeaway from Jacobson’s research is that wind beats out carbon capture time and again. From the total decrease in carbon emissions to the financial burden and impact to land use, carbon capture is a flop. There’s no denying that we need to reduce carbon emissions, just as there’s no denying ethanol plays a large role in our system of agriculture, particularly in the Midwest. But neither the future of the ethanol industry nor the future of our planet should rely on risky carbon capture projects as a solution. In fact, during testimony in support of the Summit pipeline, ethanol CEO James Broghammer acknowledged that alternative methods of reducing the ethanol industry’s carbon intensity were already being pursued. It’s more evident than ever that carbon capture is an unnecessary and unwanted approach to addressing the climate crisis.


Should Transportation Be Transitioned to Ethanol with Carbon Capture and Pipelines or Electricity? A Case Study
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