CO2 Pipelines in the Midwest: The Brewing Conflict Between Energy, Environment, and Property Rights

Reader resource guy (H/T) writes: “We have our own special interest-driven troubles as it is.”

Granite Falls, Minnesota, a tranquil prairie town of about 2,700 residents, has found itself in the eye of a storm. A seemingly peaceful town, known for its old-school hydroelectric plant, is on the brink of a transformation with plans for carbon dioxide (CO2) pipelines spreading across the Midwest. While proponents see economic opportunity, a multitude of opponents fear disastrous consequences.

According to Stateline,

“Proposed pipelines to move carbon dioxide, a byproduct of ethanol production, would crisscross the Upper Midwest like spiderwebs.”

These pipelines are planned to link dozens of ethanol plants, creating a vast network to transport CO2, a byproduct of ethanol production. This industry has become a critical component of state economies across the Midwest, consuming 45% of U.S. corn production.

However, these pipelines are not welcomed by all. For some, like farmers, tribal groups, and environmental activists,

“the proposed pipelines spell disaster.”

Landowners fear threats to their property rights, potential effects on productivity, and land value degradation. Tribal groups are concerned about disruption of ancestral grounds, and environmentalists cite potential hazards of highly pressurized liquid carbon dioxide and fear that the use of ethanol merely delays the transition to carbon-free energy.

Despite the formidable and well-funded opposition, pipeline proponents continue to push forward, arguing the benefits of carbon capture and storage. Summit Carbon Solution’s $5.5 billion Midwest Carbon Express, one such proposed project, is touted to be the largest of its kind. The project

“will collect CO2 from 34 ethanol facilities over five states and use more than 2,000 miles of pipeline to deliver it to west-central North Dakota.”

As reported by Stateline, the project aims to store 18 million tons of CO2 underground, an amount equivalent to removing 3.9 million vehicles from U.S. roads.

One of the most significant challenges faced by landowners in this situation revolves around the concept of eminent domain, the right of the government to expropriate private property for public use. Landowners and their representatives have fought similar battles before, learning valuable lessons from protests against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. However, the outcome of this battle is far from clear. In states like Iowa and South Dakota,

“legislation to restrict the use of eminent domain for carbon pipelines passed in the state House but failed in the state Senate.”

Pipeline companies like Summit, Navigator, and Wolf see a promising future. Pipeline proponents also reference the federal 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which raised the tax credit for carbon sequestration to $85 per ton. Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, argues that “ethanol plants that don’t capture and store CO2 will not be competitive,” indicating a potential ripple effect through the state’s economy if the projects are not implemented.

Nonetheless, the safety concerns raised by the critics of the project cannot be ignored. CO2 pipelines operate under high pressure and pose significant safety challenges. Critics cite incidents like the 2020 pipeline rupture in Satartia, Mississippi, which resulted in 49 hospitalizations. Despite these concerns, Summit assures on its website that its proposal “goes above and beyond” federal standards on pipeline depth, clearance, and setbacks.

As the battle over CO2 pipelines in the Midwest heats up, the conflicting interests of economic growth, environmental preservation, and property rights will continue to collide. As Joy Hohn, a farmer from South Dakota, remarked,

“It’s David vs. Goliath,” hinting at the complex and formidable challenge that awaits all the competitive interests in the region.

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June 13, 2023 10:24 pm

Has anyone else noticed that champagne socialists never want to ban champagne, a source of CO2?

Reply to  Redge
June 14, 2023 1:50 am

Bud Light used to be a big source. Not so much now.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Redge
June 14, 2023 2:50 am

True it seems hypocritical. But champagne and beer are carbon neutral. All emissions come from CO2 recently sequestered by grapes or barley (or whatever it is that they use to make that pale yellow sparkling water that comes in a blue can)

Reply to  Rich Davis
June 14, 2023 4:49 am

That’s true as far as fermentation is concerned but most other inputs depend on fossil fuel power for farming, transportation and heating in the brewing process for beer.

Further, most beverage grade carbon dioxide, that used for carbonation and pressurization, is derived from natural gas reforming. It’s a byproduct from the production of nitrogen based fertilizers for which modern farming of corn is dependent.

I’m surprised that there is enough CO2 made from corn ethanol production that would justify pipelines, and certainly a “transition” to EVs would lower demand for ethanol.

Reply to  Rich Davis
June 14, 2023 2:45 pm

By that logic, ethanol production is also carbon neutral. It is the theft of $85/ton from the public at large that drives it.

Rich Davis
Reply to  AndyHce
June 15, 2023 3:14 am

No, you’re right, but I’m still sticking up for my beer.

June 13, 2023 11:00 pm

Pipelines are dangerous. Pipelines that transport known EPA air pollutants are especially dangerous. Just think of the catastrophe a pipeline rupture would cause. It’s an unacceptable existential risk to take.

Reply to  doonman
June 14, 2023 1:51 am

Pipelines can be targets.

Reply to  strativarius
June 14, 2023 2:36 am

Cows can be targets. Your point?

Reply to  rovingbroker
June 14, 2023 3:16 am

Nord Stream?
Keystone XL?

BTW CO2 is not a pollutant.

Reply to  doonman
June 14, 2023 2:32 am

doonman wrote, “Pipelines are dangerous.”

Being born is dangerous. Please quantify the degree of danger and how it compares to the supposed danger of one or more possible alternatives.

Rich Davis
Reply to  rovingbroker
June 14, 2023 2:53 am

My sarc detector says doonman was joking. See “EPA air pollutants”, “existential risk”.

Reply to  Rich Davis
June 14, 2023 10:10 am

RD – Shoot first, think about sarcasm later?

Rich Davis
Reply to  KevinM
June 14, 2023 7:33 pm


Reply to  rovingbroker
June 14, 2023 2:48 pm

Any pipeline failure risk vs the non-existent risk (except for the loss of $85/ton) of venting to the open air.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  doonman
June 14, 2023 4:03 am

I feel like you’re being sarcastic, but a couple of important points:

CO2 in low concentration is no “pollutant,” it is in fact the foundation of life as we know it.

However, CO2 in high concentration can kill people, and a pipeline carrying liquefied CO2 that experiences a leak can be deadly.

“Emitting” CO2 as a combustion byproduct harms nothing. Concentrating it and potentially releasing it at high concentration IS an “existential threat” for anyone unfortunate enough to be in the area where a leak occurs, and such an event is completely unnecessary given the “Climate” Boogeyman not constituting a threat at all.

Reply to  doonman
June 14, 2023 6:28 am

CO2 is dangerous in the wrong lobbyist hands and nature gives us clues.

Lake Nyos disaster – Wikipedia

Reply to  ResourceGuy
June 14, 2023 10:24 am

I can’t think of any deep large elevated lakes in New York that could be used for CO2 sequestration … appears that the grade from Seneca runs the wrong direction.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
June 14, 2023 10:46 am

From Wikipedia link “Reporters in the area described the scene as “looking like the aftermath of a neutron bomb”.

Again, what a strange choice of analogy. Neither the reporter nor any reader would know what the aftermath of a neutron bomb looks like. Maybe it looks like banana wings growing on a baby sequoia tree – I’ve never seen that either.

Dave Fair
June 13, 2023 11:24 pm

Not that any of this makes sense, but the tax credit of $85/ton of CO2 exceeds the (IIRC) social cost of carbon of $52/ton. We are paying more to remove something than the cost of the supposed damages just to leave things alone.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Dave Fair
June 14, 2023 3:04 am

Of course we are. It’s worse than you say. Since the true “social cost” is negative, we are harming everyone through degradation of the benefits of CO2 enhancement on agricultural production not to mention potential climate improvement of mild warming. Then add the costs in taxes and inflation imposed by raising transportation cost of basically everything.

This is done in order to benefit the crony “capitalists” who milk the subsidies. Almost certainly, the subsidy farming opportunities will only flow to the connected wokesters who can manipulate the bureaucracy to obtain the necessary permits.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Rich Davis
June 14, 2023 6:39 am

The scariest part of the article is this:

‘…executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, argues that “ethanol plants that don’t capture and store CO2 will not be competitive,”…’

Every vote will be critical IF we are going to succeed in restoring (small “r”) republican government at the Federal level.

Unfortunately, given that the Left already owns the urban vote in the Midwest, this means that those favoring limited government will have to engage in a bidding war with the RFA to buy their support in farm country.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Dave Fair
June 14, 2023 4:05 am

A LOT more, given the complete fiction of ANY “social cost of carbon” that exceeds ZERO.

June 13, 2023 11:51 pm

Piping CO2? Aren’t pipelines a no-no?

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  strativarius
June 14, 2023 4:11 am

This is exactly why I didn’t want “permitting reform” to get passed until the Eco-Nazis got booted from office.

Because it won’t get used to advance development of USEFUL energy infrastructure like oil and gas pipelines, refineries, etc.; instead, it will be used to shove worse-than-useless wind farms, solar farms, high tension lines to carry their worthless product from remote locations to where power is needed, and CO2 pipelines and “carbon capture” facilities that feed them.

All of which are needless, worthless, and worse-than-useless.

Steve Case
June 14, 2023 12:54 am

Plans to sequester carbon dioxide are without merit.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Steve Case
June 14, 2023 3:13 am

Not mentioned in the article but implied, the CO2 is most likely “sequestered” by using it to enhance oil recovery in fracking operations. What else would be using it in North Dakota?

They might be leaving more CO2 in the ground than the CO2-equivalent they are pulling out in the form of oil, but the overall process certainly doesn’t sequester anything close to the amount of CO2 they would be getting tax credits for.

Steve Case
Reply to  Rich Davis
June 14, 2023 5:45 am

Thanks for reminding me about that.

Reply to  Rich Davis
June 14, 2023 10:15 am

I was amazed to not-see the same thing. Pipeline to where, for what? Does the author say?

June 14, 2023 3:42 am

CO2 in large concentrations is dangerous. If a CO2 pipeline ruptures then CO2 being denser than air, will flow into depressions before it can be diluted by the local air. There it can suffocate any air breathing animal. in 1986 CO2 gas erupting from a volcano through the bottom Lake Nyos in Cameroon was the cause of a mass killing of 1,746 people and 3,500 livestock. The lake is surrounded by hills.

As a final note CO2 gas is used to euthanase mice and other laboratory animals.

Reply to  tmatsci
June 14, 2023 5:41 am

Comment says:”CO2 in large concentrations is dangerous.”

So is H2O. About 4000 people a year die due to drowning in US.,22%20nonfatal%20drownings%20per%20day.

Reply to  mkelly
June 14, 2023 10:37 am

BUT, You can see, feel and possibly hear the water building up, great amounts of CO2 can asphyxiate without you noticing. Much better to leave it at its 400ppm natural concentration, unless you are putting out fires.

Rich Davis
June 14, 2023 3:51 am

…the project aims to store 18 million tons of CO2 underground, an amount equivalent to removing 3.9 million vehicles from U.S. roads.

Typical Green media innumeracy!

Is the 18Mt the total amount that will be sequestered over the expected lifetime of the project, or an annual amount? 18Mt CO2 is equivalent to the emissions of 3.9 million cars over what period of time?

A back-of-the-envelope calculation tells me that their 18Mt/3,900,000 cars = 4.6t/car must be an annual amount. At 8.32kg CO2 per gallon of gasoline, 27 miles/gallon, 15,000 miles/yr, the average car would produce 4.6t CO2/yr.

Probably they mean that the project would sequester 18Mt CO2 per year and that would be equivalent to 3.9 million fewer cars on the road.

Two words (“per year”) would have made this clear. Why do they prefer ambiguity?

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Rich Davis
June 14, 2023 4:17 am

Who cares? Every molecule they “sequester” will just be emissions relocated to China, India and other so-called “developing” nations.

Nor is there ANY benefit to reducing “emissions,” the effects of which are 100% beneficial.

Rich Davis
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
June 15, 2023 3:24 am

Yes, the whole thing is Barbra Streisand, but my curiosity is whether they are so corrupt that they balance a project lifetime quantity of CO2 “sequestered” against a rate of car emissions. Similar to their GW vs GW-hr game.

And I also find it revealing that even if they compared properly, they are completely incompetent at communicating anything involving numbers.

Reply to  Rich Davis
June 14, 2023 2:56 pm

Consider how poor they are at meeting any predictions. The more ambiguity the better from their perspective.

June 14, 2023 4:12 am

People seem to have forgotten the details of the Lake Nyos disaster. Lake Nyos is a lake in NW Cameroon that one night suddenly released a vast quantity of CO2 and this silent death cloud spread out over the countryside at nearly 100 km/h (62 mph), suffocating an estimated 1,746 people and more than 3,500 livestock within minutes.. Fortunately it was a sparsely populated area, but imagine if the pipeline was sabotaged or failed near a population center. Bears thinking about

Reply to  alradlett
June 14, 2023 4:56 am

Sabotage is certainly a risk. I’d point out that there are already several CO2 pipelines in the U.S., for example there is one that transports naturally derived CO2 from wells in SW Colorado to oil fields in Texas.

Reply to  Scissor
June 14, 2023 2:57 pm

Which is then put to good use.

Tom Abbott
June 14, 2023 4:24 am

From the article: “Despite the formidable and well-funded opposition, pipeline proponents continue to push forward, arguing the benefits of carbon capture and storage.”

There are no benefits to the Earth’s atmosphere in capturing CO2. There is no evidence CO2 needs to be captured.

CO2 is a benign gas, essential for life on Earth.

CO2-phobes are living in a false reality. Unfortunately, they want the rest of us to live there, too, and currently, they have the political power to make that happen.

Tom in Florida
June 14, 2023 4:56 am

If we are supposedly getting rid of fossil fuels for vehicles, then these pipelines are just another waste of time and money.
Government creates a bad policy: ethanol production for fuel
Bad policy creates an unintended consequence: CO2 as a by product
Government answer to alleviate the consequence: spend more money and create another bad policy.
New bad policy creates more unintended consequences.
And so on and so forth.

Wouldn’t it be better to just stop producing ethanol?

Paul S
Reply to  Tom in Florida
June 14, 2023 7:39 am

Well said Tom

William Howard
Reply to  Tom in Florida
June 14, 2023 8:55 am


Reply to  Tom in Florida
June 14, 2023 3:00 pm

The plan is to get the maximum possible grift before the scam collapses.

general custer
June 14, 2023 5:25 am

Northwestern Minnesota is plastered with Summit Solutions billboards trying to convince the locals that CO2 pipelines are the greatest thing since sliced bread.

William Howard
June 14, 2023 5:34 am

much better to just stop the production of ethanol for which there is no justification and no benefit to mankind whatsoever

Tom Abbott
Reply to  William Howard
June 15, 2023 3:37 am

Unfortunately, ethanol has a powerful lobby behind it, Iowa being an early political test for presidential candidates. Even Trump supports ethanol production.

Mr Ed
June 14, 2023 6:26 am

Ah..only from the Peoples Republic of Minnesota would we hear about CO2 pipelines
from an ethanol plant…

Reply to  Mr Ed
June 14, 2023 10:20 am

to where????????

Mr Ed
Reply to  KevinM
June 14, 2023 11:14 am

The piece made it sound like the plan was to pipe CO2
from 5 states aka the corn belt ethanol producers to
North Dakota for an underground storage facility, likely
a used oil field.

Joseph Zorzin
June 14, 2023 7:06 am

“As reported by Stateline, the project aims to store 18 million tons of CO2 underground, an amount equivalent to removing 3.9 million vehicles from U.S. roads.”

It’s impossible that the CO2 will stay in the ground!

Smart Rock
June 14, 2023 7:28 am

The whole business of using a food crop to make fuel has always struck me as having a serious ethical problem.

Andy Pattullo
June 14, 2023 7:57 am

So we waste 45% of a staple food to make ethanol so that we can pretend to be reducing the carbon footprint of vehicles while ruining their engines and reducing their fuel efficiency, all at great additional expense. This produces massive amounts of CO2 which, if released into the atmosphere would help all crops and growing plants grow more, but instead we want to ship it hundreds of miles and store it underground where, inevitably it will likely return by various means to the atmosphere.
Couldn’t we just create a jobs program to dig holes and then fill them in over and over and save a lot of trouble.

Reply to  Andy Pattullo
June 14, 2023 8:27 am

Don’t forget that the holes must be dug with spoons to create more jobs.

Reply to  Brad-DXT
June 14, 2023 3:02 pm

recycled plastic spoons

William Howard
Reply to  Andy Pattullo
June 14, 2023 8:58 am

ethanol came into being when American leaders thought we were running out of oil & there would be shortages of gasoline – had nothing to do w/CO2 and there certainly is no worries about gasoline shortages -many documented studies have shown that there is no justification for ethanol other than to get the farm vote

Tom Abbott
Reply to  William Howard
June 15, 2023 3:38 am

That’s what it is: Getting the farm vote.

Reply to  Andy Pattullo
June 14, 2023 11:51 pm

Ethanol plants also produce distiller’s grains, which are used for cattle feed.

June 14, 2023 8:55 am

Pipelines carrying pressurized liquid CO2 need to run underground. Carbon dioxide has a critical temperature of 81 F, above which it cannot be liquefied. This means that if liquid CO2 is heated (for example, by the summer sun) above 81 F, it will expand rapidly, possibly explosively.

It is interesting that the pipeline rupture incident occurred in Mississippi, in a warm climate.

The major danger of a rupture of a liquid CO2 pipeline is the release of a large mass of CO2, which could expand to a large volume and act as an asphyxiant, particularly since CO2 (with its molecular weight of 44) is heavier than air (MW = 29) and will remain close to the ground.

For example, liquid CO2 at 50 F has a density of 860 kg/m3. If 1 m3 of liquid CO2 (860 kg) was accidentally released and vaporized, as a vapor at atmospheric pressure and 50 F would have a volume of 454 m3, equivalent to a hemisphere with a radius of 6 meters of pure CO2.

Also, during an accidental release from liquid at high pressure and ambient temperature, the sudden expansion would result in sharp cooling. This would result in partial vaporization, and cooling of the remaining CO2 liquid to its atmospheric boiling point of -109 F. A person splashed by liquid CO2 at this temperature would suffer severe frostbite on the affected areas of the body.

June 14, 2023 9:33 am

I clicked on this story thinking that perhaps they were doing the somewhat logical idea of piping co2 emissions from coal/gas power plants out to farms to use it to boost crop yields. But it’s from ethanol plants, and to sequester? I am losing hope in western civilization.

Reply to  Mantis
June 14, 2023 10:25 am

If the pumps were turned around, the same infrastructure could do what you think makes more sense. A conspiracy theory could be made from it.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Mantis
June 15, 2023 3:42 am

“I am losing hope in western civilization.”

With very good reason. Unfortunately, for those who live in the Western world.

Dumbass/Greedy western politicians will be the death of us all.

June 14, 2023 10:06 am

As reported by Stateline, the project aims to store 18 million tons of CO2 underground, an amount equivalent to removing 3.9 million vehicles from U.S. roads.

What a strange metric. 18M out of what? 3.9M, why not round to 4M? 4M out of what? remove 4Mcars from road for how long? For some number of nanoseconds, 18M tons of CO2 would be equivalent to removing all cars from everywhere on earth.

June 14, 2023 10:06 am

Lordy – you can’t make this s..t up. Ethanol production for use by cars has always been a highly dubious proposition, created by Bush Jr to repay midwest voters for their Republican support. Now it’s 45% of corn production, and has created significant increases in the cost of the corn to the consumer, and the consumer will have to pay for all these pipelines to deal with the CO2 produced by this boondoggle. May God preserve us from our politicians.

Reply to  terry
June 14, 2023 3:14 pm

so far, no reply.

Stan Brown
June 14, 2023 10:12 am

Why pipe the CO2 to an underground storage facility, when you could transport it to a National or state forest for immediate use? There are farms on the way that would love to use the CO2 also.
Perhaps they may even pay for it as it is plant fertilizer.

June 14, 2023 10:31 am

Reference to the USA PBS documentary “Glow Trains” about trains used to bring faraway nuclear waste across the country from plants to underground storage seems relevant. The documentary used scary sound editing and imaginative narration to make arguments that the anti-pipeline team might recycle. It was broadcast at least 10 years ago, probably more.

June 14, 2023 12:34 pm

CO2 is of course denser than air. Any pipeline breaches (sabotage or damage) will thus lead to a ‘lake’ of CO2 drifting around, at least initially at toxic levels. One of the rare occasions when CO2 really can kill you!

June 14, 2023 2:12 pm

The mid west needs to build more fossil fuel and nuclear generators and feed that corn to animals and people.

June 14, 2023 7:12 pm

also, I heard on thedavidknightshow that people are being harassed by surveyors trespassing on their properties, and the surveyors are being accompanied by armed escorts. that must be what $85/Mt buys these days.

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