Democratic candidate for Public Utilities Commission Jeff Barth has made clear that he thinks carbon dioxide pipelines are bad for South Dakota. Far from disqualifying him from hearings on the Iowa-Republican-driven Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline as the Iowa-Republican-driven SDGOP argues, Barth’s opposition to the CO2 pipeline shows he’s looking past the biased political pitch of its backers to review the real science and economics that say such pipelines aren’t worth stealing farmers’ land and endangering their livelihood and lives.
Scientist Silvia Secchi provides a great rebuttal of Summit Carbon Solutions’ claims about the merits of its five-state carbon transportation project in the Des Moines Register.
First, Dr. Secchi notes that the state has a greater interest in reviewing the merits of this project than its already great interest in reviewing oil pipelines like Keystone and Dakota Access because Summit Carbon Solutions and other CO2 traders base their entire business model on government subsidies:
The CO2 ethanol pipelines are different from oil pipelines like Keystone because they critically depend on subsidies from the federal government and California, so the public should have access to credible, science-based information on whether there are more effective ways to spend public money to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the environmental costs of all alternatives should be thoroughly assessed [Silvia Secchi, “Don’t Be Fooled by Exaggerated ‘Benefits’ of Carbon Pipelines,” Des Moines Register, 2022.07.09].
Secchi dismantles an Ernst & Young study commissioned by Summit Carbon Solutions to tout the economic benefits of the CO2 pipeline. Keystone and Dakota Access didn’t make South Dakota and the other states they cross rich; Secchi says Summit Carbon Solutions’ project will produce similarly elusive and transitory economic effects:
The real economic benefits of the pipelines will be much lower than estimated by Ernst & Young because none of the pipe, valves, pumps, and so on, are manufactured in the pipeline states. And the highly skilled welders who would be employed during construction are likely to come from Louisiana, Oklahoma and other places where pipeline industries are clustered, not the Midwest. Swenson, who just retired from Iowa State and is an expert on these issues, confirmed that, for example, with the Dakota Access pipeline, only 16 Iowa-based welders were certified to work on the pipeline.
The transitory nature of the employment benefits in particular is masked by the use of “worker years” over the life of the project instead of assessing the employment effect every year. That approach would show how little long-term effects the projects have on employment in our region. Ernst & Young also overestimates the effects of the pipeline on the economy by using a national model instead of one that considers only the region of construction and operation, and by using that model to estimate tax impacts. The use of the national model inflates the indirect and induced economic activity effects [Secchi, 2022.07.09].
These meager and fleeting economic benefits don’t justify the perpetual violation of property rights along the pipeline route, the ongoing disruption to crops and pastures and other private activity as Summit maintains and repairs its pipeline in the right-of-way it seizes by eminent domain, and the everyday health risk the pipeline will pose to communities along its route.
Jeff Barth has good reason to bring those facts to the Public Utilities Commission and weigh those real costs to South Dakotans against the benefits the Iowa pipeliners are exaggerating to push their bid to take our land for their government-subsidized profit.