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Ahead of Public Debate in ND, New Study Examines Carbon Capture

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Tuesday, February 28, 2023   

A series of public hearings will begin in March on a proposed pipeline project to bring underground storage of carbon dioxide to North Dakota, and at the same time, new research is emerging about the technology.

March 14 is the first scheduled public hearing hosted by the state's Public Service Commission. It wants to gather input on a plan by Summit Carbon Solutions to capture carbon dioxide from ethanol plants and run it underground through several Midwestern states before storing it in North Dakota.

June Sekera, senior research fellow at Boston University's Global Development Policy Center and visiting scholar at The New School for Social Research, helped lead a new study, which found carbon pipelines might not be as efficient as other strategies for policymakers to consider.

"And if they look at the data, they will understand that the public taxpayer's money is much better spent on supporting biological methods than it is on supporting the mechanical methods that they're currently subsidizing," Sekera contended.

The study showed mechanical approaches to capturing carbon, similar to the Summit plan, have barely moved the needle in removing emissions from the air. Biological methods, such as replanting of trees, have achieved nearly one billion tons of carbon dioxide removal. While some Midwestern leaders push mechanical efforts, the White House also has pledged support through subsidies.

While supporters of the Summit plan and similar projects said the technology is still taking shape, Sekera suggested there is doubt any long-term success will be achieved through the approach.

"Scientists at the international level are predicting that we won't get to even one gigaton of CO2 removal using the mechanical methods by 2050," Sekera stressed.

The findings are detailed in a separate report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, which noted most large-scale projects have underperformed, with only a couple of successful ones.

Meanwhile, the Summit plan has also stoked tension over landowner rights with the company trying to secure enough property to construct the pipeline, should it receive all the necessary permits.


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