The United States Now Has A Real Climate Law. Prepare For Additional Pipelines 

The United States Now Has A Real Climate Law. Prepare For Additional Pipelines – Last week on a sunny day, Dan Tronchetti posed like a scarecrow in a field of lush soybeans. The 66-year-old farmer was attempting to repel what he believed to be an intruder. While his wife, Susan, focused her camera on him, Tronchetti, wearing a gray Carhartt T-shirt and a red mesh-back hat, put his arms out straight to either side to show where a developer intended to build a pipeline across his family’s 1,500-acre farm in northwest Iowa.

He believed that displaying how near the pipeline will be to his house would attract the attention of a reporter. Last December, he refused Summit Carbon Solutions’ $90,000 bid for the right to construct there, but the Ames-based firm “would not accept no.” After months of calls and emails that Tronchetti characterized as “harassing,” the company petitioned state officials last week to confiscate pieces of his farm via eminent domain.

The last time a controversial pipeline sought to acquire private property from reticent purchasers, the influential Iowa Utilities Board granted permission. Tronchetti said through phone, “I wish I had been a political activist earlier and fought against the Dakota Access Pipeline.” I believe that the Iowa Utilities Board will attempt to use this as a precedent.

The Dakota Access Pipeline, which was designed to expand the flow of some of the world’s dirtiest oil, became a painful symbol of the United States’ failure to establish a credible, long-term national strategy to cease emitting heat-trapping gases to the climate. It ignited a global climate movement.

Six years later, President Joe Biden signed the first significant climate measure in U.S. history, unleashing a $369 billion avalanche of government investment on clean energy and infrastructure that might help the nation achieve its 2030 climate targets. In a surprising turn of events, its passage may portend Tronchetti’s loss and a new era of pipeline building.

If all goes according to plan, the Inflation Reduction Act may spark a boom in solar panels, wind turbines, and carbon capture and sequestration over the next decade, reducing U.S. emissions by 40% below 2005 levels. The latter method, known as CCS, is intended to minimize greenhouse gas emissions by removing them from smokestacks.

This is a debatable strategy. CCS either protects humanity from the emissions of unavoidable fossil fuel usage or assures oil, gas, and coal a portion of the future decarbonized economy, depending on your perspective. CCS has failed to operate on a large scale, although business organizations have sometimes exaggerated its potential in an attempt to prevent government policies from promoting non-fossil alternative energy sources.

As the demand for oil, gas, and coal decreases, it is uncertain if the fossil fuel supply chains required for CCS will remain stable. And since CCS equipment can not capture all pollutants, populations near polluting facilities may only anticipate a limited reduction in asthma and cancer rates.

In addition, the United States may need up to 30,000 miles of additional pipeline — more than all the gas pipelines in California, New York, and Pennsylvania combined — in order to economically transport the carbon dioxide that the new legislation incentivizes industries to begin absorbing. As one of three potential CO2 pipelines being discussed in the Midwestern United States, the Summit project could transport 680 of those miles in Iowa alone.

“As the number of project developers increases, their number one question will be: what do we do with the CO2? Where will we put it? How will it be transported?” Jessie Stolark, manager of public policy at the Carbon Capture Coalition, an industry organization, said as much. There is a significant enthusiasm in the clean-energy business as a whole to construct a variety of objects.

The United States cannot abruptly quit using fossil fuels, and many African, Asian, and Latin American countries that have contributed the least to the carbon mess in the atmosphere are developing additional oil, gas, and coal infrastructure. The United States, as the world’s largest cumulative emitter, is responsible for developing CCS for the rest of the world, according to proponents of the technology. Few analysts see a better way to eliminate the 24% of U.S. emissions that originate from factories, refineries, and other industrial sites than carbon capture and storage (CCS).

“Yes, there were technological difficulties with pioneering ventures. Some were successful, while others were not,” said Jesse Jenkins, assistant professor at Princeton University and director of the REPEAT Project, which modeled the effect of the IRA on emissions. “Technical obstacles are not the reason the industry did not take off. It’s an economic argument. And this law will remedy the situation.”

To avert catastrophic global warming, it will be necessary to basically hoover up a significant portion of the carbon dioxide that is now circulating in the atmosphere, according to experts. In the future decades, the same pipelines and underground storage wells required for CCS will likely play a crucial role in this cleanup effort.

No energy infrastructure is immune to not-in-my-backyard resistance, according to Senate Democrats, who believe that a “side agreement” to modify federal licensing procedures would help solve this problem. It will be difficult to pass such legislation, particularly if progressives want a larger role in defining it.

CCS and its related pipeline expansion particularly confound political boundaries. Long have environmentalists condemned pipelines and CCS in general as symbols of climate disaster. Will the coalitions that helped kill projects like the Keystone XL oil pipeline continue to exist if these conduits begin to play a significant role in reducing emissions?

As soon as the so-called IRA’s new substantial subsidies go into force, we shall find out.

Do past perils ruin future promises?

Carbon capture and sequestration refers to a variety of procedures, but the approaches entail employing chemical solvents and heat to remove carbon dioxide from fuel prior to combustion or from exhaust gas in smokestacks.

It is not a novel idea. The technology was developed decades ago, when it was discovered that burning the long-buried remains of ancient plants and animals thickened the Earth’s atmosphere and made it more difficult for the sun’s heat to escape — a process that, over time, caused the planet’s temperatures to rise and permanently altered weather patterns, freshwater sources, and ocean levels.

Solar panels and wind turbines were pricey at the time. Coal was inexpensive and produced more than fifty percent of the United States’ power. Prior until now, coal plant emissions were a visible concern. Acid rain was generated by sulfur dioxide emissions from coal operations. New equipment for sulfur collection and a government restriction on sulfur emissions led to a remarkable decrease in this pollutant.

Carbon dioxide has proven to be a far more difficult gas to control. The negative impacts were broad and cumulative. And the issue was not limited to coal. Not only did fossil fuels emit carbon through power plants, but also from autos, furnaces, and agriculture. Despite this, the United States began to invest heavily in CCS.

It was a rather simple notion. The issue is the burning of long-dead dinosaurs and ancient flora, which releases carbon into the atmosphere. Capture the carbon before it reaches the atmosphere and bury it below.

However, this method needs electricity, costly equipment, and — assuming there is no saline aquifer deep under the facility – pipes to transport the CO2 to storage or drilling sites. Why should a firm make these expenditures in a nation where spewing carbon waste into the atmosphere is almost free? In this instance, the government intervened.

As with every new technology, there were unsuccessful endeavors. The Kemper County Electricity Facility in Mississippi, first proposed in 2006, intended to create energy from locally mined coal using a chemical process that removed carbon and left behind clean-burning hydrogen. After 11 years and $7.5 billion in funding from the Department of Energy, the utility behemoth Southern Company abandoned the project. Last year, a portion of the gasification equipment was dismantled.

There were also policy incentives that were insufficient to produce the intended results. The principal government mechanism for supporting CCS is the 45Q tax credit, which enables businesses to deduct the cost of each ton of carbon collected. Years ago, the financial amounts per ton were insufficient to make a significant effect. However, carbon was valuable to oil drillers because liquefied carbon could be put into older wells to retrieve difficult crude.

In 2018, Congress boosted 45Q payments to $35 per ton of CO2 used for drilling and $50 every ton of carbon stored. However, the Internal Revenue Service did not provide use recommendations for these credits until January 2021.

In the meanwhile, the nation’s only surviving commercial coal plant outfitted with CCS shut down. As the COVID-19 epidemic devastated the world economy and for the first time drove the price of oil below zero, the Houston-based utility NRG Energy shut down its Petra Nova plant in Texas.

The United States Now Has A Real Climate Law. Prepare For Additional Pipelines 
The United States Now Has A Real Climate Law. Prepare For Additional Pipelines


Not uncommon for a first-of-its-kind facility, the power plant lost 367 operational days due to interruptions after launching in 2017. However, as a result of rock-bottom oil prices, selling collected CO2 for oil drilling was no longer able to pay the expense of CCS.

Jenkins said, “It is surprising that Petra Nova was constructed on schedule and on budget with little public support.” “This demonstrates the danger that utilities and power plant owners face when relying on improved oil recovery for income. Therefore, I am not as worried as other environmental activists.”

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Combining the $35 credit with income from oil drilling at $100 per barrel increased the price per ton of CO2 to almost $58, much above the $50 flat rate for CO2 storage.

The new legislation modifies this. Using carbon for oil drilling will now be eligible for a tax credit of $60 per ton. If the price per barrel of oil continues at about $100, the net benefit from selling a ton of carbon to an oil driller would be approximately $73 — much less than the $85 available per ton of CO2 that is stored underground, assuming oil prices remain high. If a corporation is collecting 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, the difference is $12 million.

“It is now more beneficial to store CO2 than to utilize it for better oil recovery,” said Julio Friedmann, a research fellow at the Center for Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. “This was not the case in the previous law. It is now unmistakably the case.”

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