Monday, November 29, 2021

'Carbon Pipeline' to Cut Through Corn Belt Farmland; Eminent Domain on the Table for Landowners Who Won't Accept

A carbon dioxide pipeline project is being developed across several Midwestern states, including eastern Iowa, but it may have to be built using eminent domain

Navigator CO2 Ventures, based in Texas, is proposing a 1,300-mile line pipeline that takes carbon dioxide from fertilizer and ethanol plants.

Navigator would consider using eminent domain— if Iowa officials will allow it — if farmers do not agree to provide easements to let the line go across their lands, according to The Gazette , a newspaper in Cedar Rapids.

The way the project works is that the gas is pressurized and liquified and sent to a place in western Illinois. The plan calls for the carbon to be injected into rock formations, where, according to the theory behind the project, it calcifies and never gets into the air.

The theory remains unproven, and some are skeptical or concerned about the possible impacts of the pipeline on their land.

“All things considered, it seems like a bad idea,” said Marian Kuper, 68, who lives with her husband Keith near Ackley, Iowa.

The $3 billion project claims it will bury 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

A similar project, developed by Summit Carbon Solutions, cuts through parts of western Iowa on its 2,000-mile route.

The idea is a money-maker, in theory, for ethanol plants that want lower carbon scores for their fuels to sell in states such as California and Oregon, with low-carbon fuel standards.

A federal tax credit would give out up to $50 a metric ton for permanently stored carbon.

The companies are pushing the idea as a way to benefit everybody.

“These projects have a unique touchpoint to the agricultural community,” Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, a Navigator vice president, told The Gazette.

Burns-Thompson said the idea “has the potential to help keep those (ethanol and fertilizer) plants vital not only for years to come, but decades to come.”

Navigator’s pipeline would be buried at least 5 feet underground, Burns-Thompson said.

“The best way to minimize risk is to go a little bit deeper,” she said. “Then you minimize some of those risks of a line strike.”

State regulators everywhere the line goes, which includes Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Illinois, must sign off on the project.

The company hopes to start construction in 2023.


Why the Energy Transition Will Be So Complicated

To appreciate the complexities of the competing demands between climate action and the continued need for energy, consider the story of an award—one that the recipient very much did not want and, indeed, did not bother to pick up.

It began when Innovex Downhole Solutions, a Texas-based company that provides technical services to the oil and gas industry, ordered 400 jackets from North Face with its corporate logo. But the iconic outdoor-clothing company refused to fulfill the order. North Face describes itself as a “politically aware” brand that will not share its logo with companies that are in “tobacco, sex (including gentlemen’s clubs) and pornography.” And as far as North Face is concerned, the oil and gas industry fell into that same category—providing jackets to a company in that industry would go against its values. Such a sale would, it said, be counter to its “goals and commitments surrounding sustainability and environmental protection,” which includes a plan to use increasing amounts of recycled and renewable materials in its garments in future years.

But, as it turns out, North Face’s business depends not only on people who like the outdoors, but also on oil and gas: At least 90 percent of the materials in its jackets are made from petrochemicals derived from oil and natural gas. Moreover, many of its jackets and the materials that go into them are made in countries such as China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh, and then shipped to the United States in vessels that are powered by oil. To muddy matters further, not long before North Face rejected the request, its corporate owner had built a new hangar at a Denver airport for its corporate jets, all of which run on jet fuel. To spotlight the obvious contradiction, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association presented its first ever Customer Appreciation Award to North Face for being “an extraordinary oil and gas customer.” That’s the award North Face spurned.

Read: Ultra-fast fashion is eating the world

Different people will draw different conclusions from this episode. Central to the response to climate change is the transition from carbon fuels to renewables and hydrogen, augmented by carbon capture. This was highlighted at the historic COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, which emphasized the need for urgency and a greater ambition on climate backed by a host of significant initiatives, including carbon markets, and country pledges of carbon neutrality by 2050 or a decade or two thereafter. The North Face story, however, offers a difficult reminder that the energy transition is a whole lot more complicated than may be recognized.

A New Energy Crisis

As if to remind us of the complexities, a most unwelcome guest appeared on the doorstep of the Glasgow conference: an energy crisis that has gripped Europe and Asia. Energy crises traditionally begin with oil, but this recent one has been driven by shortages of coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG). That sent prices spiking, disrupting electricity supplies in China, which then led to the rationing of electricity there, the closing of factories, and further disruptions of the supply chains that send goods to America.

In Europe, the energy shortages were made worse by low wind speeds in the North Sea, which for a time drastically reduced the electricity produced by offshore wind turbines for Britain and Northern Europe. Gas, coal, and power prices shot up—as much as seven times in the case of LNG. Factories, unable to afford the suddenly high energy costs, stopped production, among them plants in Britain and Europe making fertilizers needed for next spring’s agricultural season.

Trailing the other fuels, oil prices reached the $80 range. With a tightening balance between supply and demand, some were warning that oil could exceed $100 a barrel. Gasoline prices have hit levels in the United States that alarm politicians, who know that such increases are bad for incumbents. That—along with worsening inflation—is why the Biden administration asked Saudi Arabia and Russia to put more oil into the market, so far to no avail. The administration then announced, on the eve of Thanksgiving, the largest-ever release of oil from the U.S. government’s strategic petroleum reserve, in coordination with other countries, to temper prices.

Is this energy shock a one-off resulting from a unique conjunction of circumstances? Or is it the first of what will be several crises resulting from straining too hard to bring 2050 carbon-reduction goals rapidly forward—potentially prematurely choking off investment in hydrocarbons, thus triggering future shocks? If it’s a onetime event, then the world will move on in a few months. But if it is followed by further energy shortages, governments could be forced to rethink the timing and approach to their climate goals. The current shock offered just such an example: Although Britain is calling for an end to coal, it was nevertheless forced to restart a mothballed coal-powered plant to help make up for the electricity shortage.

Jean Pisani-Ferry, a French economist and sometime adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron, is among the most prominent voices pointing to the consequences that could result from trying to move too fast. In August, before the current energy crisis began, he warned that going into overdrive on transitioning away from fossil fuels would lead to major economic shocks similar to the oil crises that rocked the global economy in the 1970s. “Policymakers,” he wrote, “should get ready for tough choices.”

A Different Energy Transition

The term energy transition somehow sounds like it is a well-lubricated slide from one reality to another. In fact, it will be far more complex: Throughout history, energy transitions have been difficult, and this one is even more challenging than any previous shift. In my book The New Map, I peg the beginning of the first energy transition to January 1709, when an English metalworker named Abraham Darby figured out that he could make better iron by using coal rather than wood for heat. But that first transition was hardly swift. The 19th century is known as the “century of coal,” but, as the technology scholar Vaclav Smil has noted, not until the beginning of the 20th century did coal actually overtake wood as the world’s No. 1 energy source. Moreover, past energy transitions have also been “energy additions”—one source atop another. Oil, discovered in 1859, did not surpass coal as the world’s primary energy source until the 1960s, yet today the world uses almost three times as much coal as it did in the ’60s.

The coming energy transition is meant to be totally different. Rather than an energy addition, it is supposed to be an almost complete switch from the energy basis of today’s $86 trillion world economy, which gets 80 percent of its energy from hydrocarbons. In its place is intended to be a net-carbon-free energy system, albeit one with carbon capture, for what could be a $185 trillion economy in 2050. To do that in less than 30 years—and accomplish much of the change in the next nine—is a very tall order.

Here is where the complexities become clear. Beyond outerwear, the degree to which the world depends on oil and gas is often not understood. It’s not just a matter of shifting from gasoline-powered cars to electric ones, which themselves, by the way, are about 20 percent plastic. It’s about shifting away from all the other ways we use plastics and other oil and gas derivatives. Plastics are used in wind towers and solar panels, and oil is necessary to lubricate wind turbines. The casing of your cellphone is plastic, and the frames of your glasses likely are too, as well as many of the tools in a hospital operating room. The air frames of the Boeing 787, Airbus A350, and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet are all made out of high-strength, petroleum-derived carbon fiber. The number of passenger planes is expected to double in the next two decades. They are also unlikely to fly on batteries.

Oil products have been crucial for dealing with the pandemic too, from protective gear for emergency staff to the lipids that are part of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Have a headache? Acetaminophen—including such brands as Tylenol and Panadol—is a petroleum-derived product. In other words, oil and natural-gas products are deeply embedded throughout modern life.


BBC Crushes Climate Debate, Pushes Science Denial

BBC News carried two articles last week denigrating and demonizing the critics of climate-change alarmism.

The first was by Marianna Spring, the BBC’s ‘specialist disinformation reporter’. That is an apt title, as that is precisely what she writes; disinformation.

She asserted that criticism of environmentalism was being fueled by ‘right-wing conspiracy theorists’ who had switched ‘from Covid denial to climate denial’. Only someone who leans hard the other way would make such a statement.

And the second came from reporters Rachel Schraer and Kayleen Devlin, who are both a part of the BBC’s ‘Reality Check’ team of politically-motivated ‘fact-checkers’.

They claimed to have exposed ‘the truth behind the new climate-change denial’.

Both articles are travesties of journalism.

Take Schraer and Devlin’s piece, which claims to debunk four claims supposedly made by climate deniers: that a ‘Grand Solar Minimum’ will halt global warming; global warming is good; climate-change action will make people poorer; renewable energy is dangerously unreliable.

Despite the article’s dismissive approach, it completely fails to debunk what are plausible claims. For instance, the ‘Grand Solar Minimum’ – when the Sun gives off less energy as part of its natural cycle – is, as the article admits, a real phenomenon.

Whether it will reduce the Earth’s global temperatures by a significant enough amount to offset the current warming period is up for debate, but it is a debate worth having.

To write off theories of solar influence on climate in two perfunctory paragraphs, when there is still so much to research and understand, seems highly questionable.

Or take the claim that global warming is ‘good’. There is certainly plenty of evidence to suggest that a warming climate is not the terrible catastrophe many hype it up to be. Cold kills 15 times as many as warmth.

Indeed, thanks to social and economic progress, fewer people today die or suffer from events and phenomena attributable to the climate than at any point in the past. And there is plenty of reason to think that such progress will continue in the future.

And what of the claim that climate-change action will make people poorer? Again, that seems like a fair comment. After all, it is precisely because of the impoverishing consequences of decarbonization targets that so many developing nations are resistant to them – as the failure of COP26 to eliminate coal power showed.

And as for renewable energy, it is unreliable precisely because much of it depends on the weather. If the conditions aren’t right, then wind turbines or solar panels do not produce energy.

This is not a crack-pot theory. It is a simple fact.

Marianna Spring’s article is arguably more wrong-headed still. She contends that Covid conspiracy theorists have moved on from the pandemic to spread conspiracy theories about climate change.

Spring argues that the so-called deniers claim the climate, like Covid, is being used by a shadowy elite to establish a New World Order. But the article goes beyond criticizing ‘conspiracy theories’.

Spring claims that the notion of a ‘climate lockdown’ – that is, the ‘idea that in the future we might have Covid-style lockdowns to counteract climate change’ – is ‘completely unfounded.’

The only problem with this narrative is that, as I reported on spiked in 2020, it wasn’t a rag-tag band of conspiracy nuts who first connected Covid to climate change in this way.

It was environmentalists themselves, aided and abetted by the great and the good.

Indeed, almost from the moment we were first locked down in spring 2020, greens speculated about the possibility of using something akin to a lockdown in order to remake society along ‘sustainable’ lines.

In September last year, economist Mariana Mazzucato even used the phrase ‘climate lockdown’ when speculating about the need for ‘a radical overhaul of corporate governance, finance, policy and energy systems.’

And in April this year, Time ran the headline, ‘The pandemic remade every corner of society. Now it’s the climate’s turn.’ If anything, all the Covid-cum-climate conspiracy theorists have done is take politicians’, journalists’, and activists’ arguments at face value.

But there’s something else about these two BBC articles that tell us much about journalism and the green agenda today. That is, they both ground their claims on the views of political campaigners – which they then pass off as neutral, expert opinion.

For instance, both draw substantially on the views of Jennie King, senior policy manager at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). The ISD is a think tank devoted to combating ‘extremist movements, hate groups and conspiracy-theory networks worldwide’.

This is not a neutral organization. It is a politically driven one, in which what it views as ‘extremism’ encompasses not just neo-Nazis, but also people concerned about the effects of wind turbines on bird populations.

It demonizes criticism of the green agenda as ‘extremism’.


‘Vandals’: Australian States fume over federal climate intervention

The Morrison government has used sweeping new powers to override state and territory government support for an international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The federal government has deployed recently passed laws to overturn the participation of five states and territories in the global Under 2 Coalition.

In an email dated 23 November, an official with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told his counterpart in the Victorian government that its participation in the coalition was “no longer in operation”.

The email warned the Victorian government that under the new Foreign Relations (States and Territories) Act 2020, sign up to the agreement was now illegitimate.

The email said Victoria had 14 days to tell the global organisation it had “failed to properly classify” the state’s involvement in a 2015 Memorandum of Understanding.

Two-hundred-and-sixty sub-national governments worldwide have signed up to the the Under 2 coalition, representing 1.75 billion people and 50% of the global economy. Members commit to keeping global temperature rises to well below 2C, with efforts to reach 1.5C. Thirty-five states and regions in the coalition have committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier.

“[T]he MOU has also been invalidated for a number of other states and territories,” the official said, naming the ACT, Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia. He did not cite NSW, which has lately signed up.

Lily D’Ambrosio, Victoria’s energy, environment and climate change minister, said Dfat had used a technicality that was “illogical” to cancel her state’s participation.

“It’s just a really ridiculous technicality,” D’Ambrosio said. “It’s egregious. They are vandals.”

The move came less than a fortnight after the Glasgow climate summit ended. The Morrison government had weathered extensive criticism at the event for being among the few rich nations to avoid raising their 2030 emission reduction targets.

“This is going to be a global embarrassment, not for the Victorian government but the federal government that has already covered itself in ridicule on the climate change stage,” D’Ambrosio said. “Rather than addressing the urgency of climate change, they are actually putting forward more barriers.”

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said the Under 2 Coalition MOU had not come to the minister for a decision.

“The MOU was not properly notified by the relevant states and territory under the Foreign Relations Act 2020 and was therefore automatically invalidated by operation of the Act,” the spokesperson said.

Dfat was also approached for comment, as was energy minister Angus Taylor.

The Dfat official suggested in the email if Victoria wanted to sign up to the Under 2 coalition’s 2021 MOU, his department would consider approving it. He also said Victoria should join with other jurisdictions to make a single submission.

“Under what conditions would they be prepared to consider an application?” D’Ambrosio said. “Are they saying that if there’s one or two states that maybe hadn’t wanted to pursue it or have delayed it, then everyone else will be held up?”

Meaghan Scanlon, Queensland’s minister for the environment and the Great Barrier Reef, said her state had also received the cancellation advice.

“Clearly, the Morrison government aren’t content with their own failures on climate change, they’re now trying to stop the states from taking action.” she said.

“Surely their time would be better spent funding renewable energy projects or delivering a credible policy on reducing emissions, than on playing silly bureaucratic games,” Scanlon said.




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