Another Assault on Local Communities and National Forests

Written by: Dr. Randi Pokladnik | Posted on: 12-27-2023 |

FaCT: Faith Communities Together for a Sustainable Future

Category: action | fracking carbon capture and storage

The United State Forest Service has proposed a rule change to allow carbon dioxide captured directly from the air or from industrial processes to be stored permanently on public lands. This carbon dioxide would be pumped into Class VI injection wells drilled 3000 feet deep in national forests and grasslands.

Carbon capture utilization and storage has become the new “darling” of the fossil fuel industry and was touted at the climate discussions during the COP28 recently. “Along with 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists, there were 475 lobbyists specializing in Carbon Capture (Utilization) and Storage (CC(U)S) projects at the COP28.” If you have any doubt as to who is pushing this unproven and expensive technology, just look at the membership of carbon capture organizations.

In its current state, carbon capture is another false promise when it comes to addressing the urgent need to decrease carbon dioxide emissions. A 2019 Report by the Center for International Environmental Law, “Fuel to Fire”, states, “It is not surprising that the fossil fuel industry has invested and is investing heavily in the technologies that would render a transition from fossil fuels less urgent.” Carbon capture is one of those technologies.

“The International Energy Agency estimates that the world will need to be able to capture 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year by 2050; today, the world’s total carbon capture amounts to just 4 percent of that goal.” The IEA data shows the U.S. could see CO2 capture capacity increase five-times to over 100 metric tons (Mt) CO2 annually with 80 projects coming on line by 2030, but this is hardly enough to make a dent in emissions as more fossil fuel development continues to add to current emissions.

There are several techniques that have been used to capture CO2. These include: absorbing it with a sponge-like material; separating it with membranes; or cooling and condensing it using a cryogenic process. These processes all require high energy inputs, and once captured, the carbon dioxide is either stored or used. Storage involves the gas being transported to locations where it is injected deep underground into saline deposits or rock strata. Biden’s Administration on Environmental Quality said a CCS system that could meet a net zero goal of emissions by 2050 would require a pipeline system of close to 68,000 miles at a cost of $230 billion. The USA currently has 5100 miles of carbon dioxide pipelines.

Tenaska, a company with headquarters in Texas and Nebraska, recently announced that they will be receiving “an award of up to $69 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to assist with new CCS projects.” These include: seven carbon dioxide injection wells in West Virginia (Hancock, Brooke and Marshall counties; twelve wells in Ohio (Jefferson, Harrison and Carroll counties); and three in Pennsylvania (Washington County).

These wells would create 49 permanent jobs.

There is big money to be made by the fossil fuel industry when it comes to carbon capture. Instead of being penalized for polluting, they are being paid. What a deal!

The Biden Administration is all in on CCS and CCUS projects and has even sweetened the pot. The Inflation Reduction Act increased tax credits from $35 to $85 per ton of CO2 captured and stored and $50 to $180 for every ton of CO2 removed through direct air capture and permanently stored. Companies get $60 ton for industrial CO2 captured and used for EOR and $130 ton for direct air CO2 used for EOR. We are subsidizing the polluters’ emissions.

Industry claims that the carbon dioxide can be used for things besides EOR, for example, beverage carbonation. But according to a recent paper in Nature Climate Change, “the tonnage of CO2 humanity emits simply dwarfs the tonnage of carbon-based products it consumes.” Also consider that CCS only addresses the carbon dioxide emissions from stack gasses. It does not curb methane gas emissions from fossil fuel extraction such as coal mines and fracking. It does not address additional sources of carbon dioxide emissions from transportation of equipment, construction of a CCS facility and the emissions from the CCS facility itself.

Carbon dioxide injected into rock strata can also contaminate ground and surface water as it combines with water, creating carbonic acid. In many cases CCS facilities greatly increase the amount of water needed for power plants fitted with the technology. In addition to using more water, power plants fitted with CCS technology need more energy to power the CCS portion of the facility.

Finally, there are issues of safety involved in CCS, especially during the transportation portion. In 2019, in Yazo, Mississippi, a 24-inch carbon-dioxide containing underground pipeline ruptured. Over 300 people were evacuated and 46 people were treated at hospitals. The concentration of carbon dioxide was high enough to cause gas-powered car engines to stop. First responders said some people were unconscious while others wandered around like zombies.

Unlike solar and wind energy, which according to Clean Technica are “roughly displacing 35 times as much CO2 every year as the complete global history of CCS”, carbon capture technology is still in the early stages of development. It is not ready to be used in the scale necessary to curtail the climate crisis. It has however become a diversion used by the fossil fuel industry and governments to encourage the continued use of oil and gas while ignoring the climate crisis.

Do we want toxic carbon dioxide emissions stored in our national forests or our communities? Do we want more pipelines destroying the landscape?

**The proposed rule, “Land Uses; Special Uses; Carbon Capture and Storage Exemption,” and instructions on how to comment are available in the Federal Register at