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Poet Spurns Summit Carbon Solutions, Chooses Navigator CO2 Pipeline

While big ethanol plants in Wentworth, Watertown, Onida, and Aberdeen are throwing in with the hotly contested Summit Carbon Solutions Midwest Carbon Express carbon dioxide pipeline, the gorilla in South Dakota’s ethanol space and the world’s largest biofuel producer, Poet Ethanol, is throwing in with Navigator’s Heartland Greenway CO2 project:

POET, based in Sioux Falls, will use Navigator’s Heartland Greenway system for captured CO2. The 1,300-mile pipeline travels through several states including South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota.

…POET president and chief operating officer Jeff Lautt said the 18 plants represent about 20,000 farmers who provide corn to the ethanol plants.

…“POET has been careful in our assessment of the right project for over a year,” Lautt said. “We felt Navigator had the experience…”

Navigator also has a sophisticated plan in the way it created its proposed system, Lautt said [Rae Yost, “Poet Joins Navigator’s Proposed CO2 Pipeline,” KELO-TV, 2022.06.08].

Poet previously declined to be part of Summit Carbon Solutions’ pipeline project. Is Poet saying Navigator’s pipeline proposal is better than Summit’s?

“We recognize that now is the time to take bold action to preserve our planet for future generations,” Jeff Broin, POET Founder and CEO said in a news release. “POET has been a leader in low-carbon biofuels and CO2 capture for commercial use for decades, and this project is another significant step in utilizing bioprocessing to accelerate our path to net-zero. We choose our partners carefully, and we believe Navigator has the expertise to deliver long-term value to rural America by further positioning agricultural commodities as a viable source of low-carbon liquid fuels to power our future.”

“POET is an industry pioneer that has built a company on the pillars of safety, integrity, innovation, and being a good neighbor in the communities they call home, all of which align entirely with the culture and track record of Navigator,” Matt Vining, chief executive officer of Navigator said in a news release [staff, “Poet, World’s Largest Biofuel Producer, Signs on to Navigator Carbon Capture Pipeline Project,” AgWeek, 2022.06.07].

The Iowa Republicans running Summit Carbon Solutions plan to pipe carbon dioxide from Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Minnesota out to toward the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, where they say they’ll bury the CO2 but where Harold Hamm and other Big Oilers could use that gas to more greenly frack more fossil fuel. Texas-based Navigator would run carbon dioxide from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa the other direction, to Illinois, through a pipeline network that would overlap Summit’s.


  1. P. Aitch 2022-06-09 11:46

    Are we still burning food to fuel transportation to go buy food?
    Remember these four letters.
    W S O H

    *wrong side of history

  2. Mark Anderson 2022-06-09 11:54

    I’d buy his book if he signed it, many of my Poet books are signed by the author.

  3. larry kurtz 2022-06-09 12:39

    Ethanol has only two thirds the energy density of gasoline or diesel and less than half of what natural gas contains but has an immensely larger carbon footprint. Nobody farms with gasoline powered equipment and ethanol is being grown with diesel fuel so how is that either conservative or sustainable?

    Pulse crops like lentils, split peas, pintos, black beans and chickpeas or garbanzo beans are legumes that restore lost nitrogen to corn-damaged soils.

  4. Arlo Blundt 2022-06-09 17:25

    I’ll pass on the lentils, chickpeas and garbanzos though I know in my heart of hearts that they contain much protein. Nothing beats split pea with ham soup on a winter day unless its chili made with pintos and black beans. We’ve exhausted the soil in the corn belt so I’d be pleased if lentils some how caught on.

  5. grudznick 2022-06-09 17:52

    Oh, Mr. Blundt, I surely agree with you on the split pea and ham, and the chili bowls as well.

  6. larry kurtz 2022-06-09 18:01

    That Tom Daschle was politically excised for helping to create the ethanol monster is lost on no one. Dig it or don’t.

  7. DaveFN 2022-06-09 18:06

    Ya gotta love the idea of burying the CO2 garbage produced from ethanol production in someone else’s backyard, be it North Dakota or Illinois.

    Not that it necessarily stays buried in Canada, as per claims made to that effect in the Weyburn-Midale Carbon Dioxide Project:

    “A report of CO2 leaks above the project was released in January 2011 by an advocacy group on behalf of owners of land above the project. They reported ponds fizzing with bubbles, dead animals found near those ponds, sounds of explosions which they attributed to gas blowing out holes in the walls of a quarry. The report said that carbon dioxide levels in the soil averaged about 23,000 parts per million, several times higher than is normal for the area. “The … source of the high concentrations of CO2 in the soils of the Kerr property is clearly the anthropogenic CO2 injected into the Weyburn reservoir… The survey also demonstrates that the overlying thick cap rock of anhydrite over the Weyburn reservoir is not an impermeable barrier to the upward movement of light hydrocarbons and CO2 as is generally thought.” said the report.” [Interestingly, the pdf of this report is no longer available on the web]

    And as far as ethanol itself:

    “A major 2011 study by the National Academies of Sciences found that biofuels can be cost-competitive with fossil fuels only in an economic environment of high oil prices. It assessed that biofuels would only be competitive with fossil fuels by 2022 (when the statutory RFS targets expire) if gasoline was about $5 a gallon (or $191 per barrel of crude oil). Even then, that represented the Department of Energy’s worst-case scenario projection for 2022. Then came the shale revolution, and now the Department’s projected worst-case scenario for 2022 is significantly lower, about $4 a gallon ($140 per barrel of crude oil), and more likely $2.50, or even $2.

    In fact, perversely enough, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) expands the supply of gasoline, thereby helping keep fossil-fuel prices low in the long run. That’s particularly perverse from the climate’s point of view. The single biggest obstacle to a completely carbon-free future is the fact that automobiles, airplanes, and ships are tethered to oil as an energy source—whereas almost everything else that consumes energy just needs to connect to the electricity grid. If federal officials ever got serious about climate change and facilitated rapid deployment of nuclear energy, electricity production could be down to zero carbon emissions within a decade or two. If on top of that all, vehicles were electric, you’d be close to zero carbon emissions for the economy as a whole. By expanding the supply of gasoline, the RFS program helps ensure that gasoline-powered cars remain on the road longer.

    Cheap gasoline is nice in the short term, but in exchange for that, the RFS gives us more expensive food. In the United States, the cultivation of corn for ethanol now requires a staggering 38 million acres of land—an area larger than the state of Illinois. By comparison, the total area of cropland used to produce grains and vegetables that humans eat is only about twice that acreage. In other words, the U.S. devotes enough land to corn-ethanol production to feed 150 million people.

    The diversion of arable land for ethanol production constricts the supply of both crops and cropland that are available for food, with a particularly pronounced impact on livestock feed, and hence on meat. Price signals cause farmers to switch from other crops to corn production, seeking higher returns. As a result, the price of all foods—not just those directly related to corn—increases, and because the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of food, food prices increase all over the world. Few Americans realize that to subsidize corn-ethanol production, they are paying almost twice as much for ground beef as they did before the RFS was created. The supermarket price of both flour and rice jumped about 50 percent after the RFS was created, and never fell back. The ethanol program functions as a hidden food tax—the most regressive of all taxes. And the effects on poor Americans are magnified for poor countries that depend on imports of food.

    The RFS program mandates that corn ethanol have at least 20 percent lower carbon emissions than petroleum-based gasoline. But in the decade since the program’s full implementation, many studies have shown that the greenhouse-gas impacts collaterally associated with ethanol production—the full “carbon-cycle” effect—negate that 20 percent reduction and may even make corn ethanol worse for the climate than fossil fuels.

    A large amount of fossil fuel is required to produce, grow, harvest, transport, and especially process a gallon of ethanol, eating up much of the difference in carbon emissions between ethanol and regular gasoline. As a National Academies report puts it, the RFS “may be an ineffective policy for reducing global greenhouse-gas emissions because the extent of emissions reductions depends to a great degree on how the biofuels are produced and what land-use or land-cover changes occur in the process.” Moreover, as the report notes, the production and use of ethanol results in higher emissions of ozone, particulate matter, and sulfur oxide than fossil fuels. Studies have demonstrated that corn production with nitrogen-based fertilizers releases high levels of nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere, which not only destroys ozone but has a higher greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide. And when those costs are added to the lost carbon sequestration from deforestation and other land-use changes, the impact on greenhouse-gas emissions from ethanol production is at best only slightly beneficial, and could be even worse for the climate than gasoline.”

    And if the above 2019 report is considered out-dated in this fast-moving world, consider the 2022 report:

    ““Corn ethanol is not a climate-friendly fuel,” said Dr. Tyler Lark, assistant scientist at University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment and lead author of the study.

    “New research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, led by the University of Wisconsin–Madison confirms Singer’s cartoon is dead on. The researchers found RFS increased corn prices by 30%, expanded corn cultivation by 8.7%, increased fertilizer use by 3 to 8%, degraded the water supply with chemical runoff, and “caused enough domestic land use change emissions such that the carbon intensity of corn ethanol produced under the RFS is no less than gasoline and likely at least 24% higher.”1”

    “It basically reaffirms what many suspected, that corn ethanol is not a climate-friendly fuel and we need to accelerate the shift toward better renewable fuels, as well as make improvements in efficiency and electrification,” said scientist Tyler Lark, the lead author, in a press release.

    So much for those “carbon solutions” and the outlandish and carefully crafted advertisements.

  8. larry kurtz 2022-06-09 18:12

    The Gulf dead zone is expected to be slightly smaller this year partly because fertilizer is more expensive.

    Bake a man a pie and he’ll learn to divide by seven. Teach a man piety and he’ll crucify the apples then say they died for his sins.

  9. DaveFN 2022-06-09 19:05

    larry kurtz

    Expected by whom?

    “NOAA is forecasting a summer “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that will be approximately 5,364 square miles, making it about average for the 35-year history of the summertime dead zone measurements in the region. The forecast is lower than last year’s measured size and slightly lower than the five-year average measured size of 5,380 square miles.”

    The effect of the EPA’s intervention via the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force and Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2014, originating in the Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan of 2008 and aligned fertilizer and manure application regulations are likely a greater factor than the cost of fertilizer alone.

    eg: “The Illinois Nutrient Research & Education Council (NREC) was created by state statute in 2012. Funded by a 75-cent per ton assessment on bulk fertilizer sold in Illinois, NREC provides financial support for nutrient research and education programs to ensure the discovery and adoption of practices that
    address environmental concerns, optimize nutrient use efficiency, and ensure soil fertility. ”

  10. grudznick 2022-06-09 19:07

    Mr. DaveFN, it is expected to be smaller by grudznick and his good friend Lar, who did a bunch of napkin calculations at breakfast a while back and came up with the math.

  11. larry kurtz 2022-06-09 19:17

    You go, Dave and take grud with you.

    A farm bill won’t be a food bill until ethanol is recognized as a foolish reminder of a bridge fuel gone rogue.

  12. DaveFN 2022-06-09 23:16

    Correlations between the price of fertilizer and the size of the dead zone are anything but direct. Things aren’t that simple.

  13. larry kurtz 2022-06-10 07:37

    Instead of tossing more eggs into the biofuels basket — including both this bill and the wrongheaded proposals to crisscross carbon pipelines all over the state — Iowa and its leaders would be better served to figure out what comes after ethanol. The state won’t be able to use its own laws and influence in Congress to perpetuate the “need” for biofuels forever. We have to find another way. Numerous hard questions need answers. What can soften the blow of a seemingly inevitable reduction in demand for corn and soybeans? How can monocultured farmland be restored to greater soil health? How can we avoid falling into “greenwashing” traps and prioritize real environmental benefits over profit-making?

  14. larry kurtz 2022-06-10 07:44

    Canada is the top export market for US ethanol taking some 326.4 million gallons in 2020 and total exports were around 1.3 billion gallons, down 9.8 percent from 2019.

    Ethanol is ecocide.

    In the 90s and 2000s my conservationist father wept as shelter belts were being cleared for center-pivot irrigation and as fossil water was being pumped from fragile aquifers for the industrial agriculture now killing his once-beloved Brookings County. Today the Chinese ring-necked pheasant isn’t wildlife but it is a canary in a chemically and genetically engineered corn mine.

    Most East River lakes are already eutrophic sh!t holes filled with toxic algae and unable to even support fish populations so the Prairie Pothole Region is becoming increasingly threatened by the encroachment of industrial agriculture but more irrigation means pumping from depleted aquifers mainly recharged by the Prairie Pothole Region.

  15. larry kurtz 2022-06-10 07:47

    POET is an ecoterrorist wedded to the Kochtopus: it’s just that simple.

  16. larry kurtz 2022-06-10 07:50

    The Lewis and Clark water system exists because all the wells east of the James River have been poisoned by idiots burning food for fuel.

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