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Iowa Prof: Economic Benefits of Government-Subsidized CO2 Pipelines Exaggerated, Fleeting

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.


  1. 96Tears 2022-07-12 17:43

    The days of bending over for every dirty pipeline proposal will come to an end when Jeff Barth becomes a Public Utilities Commissioner. He’s no patsy for blue suits.

    The PUC has a consumer protection role in its historic mission. This has been completely missing since Republicans got elected to all three seats. They’ve turned it into a rubber stamp in a town that’s already too full of rubber stamps for bad ideas.

  2. Ed 2022-07-13 07:19

    Ernst &Young was just recently fined 100 million dollars for fraudulent accounting practices including many of their accountants had cheated on their exams to get their licenses. Their rosy report on Summit’s CO2 pipeline is bogus, since they used data provided by Summit to arrive at their conclusions rather than independently verifying the information. For example, their report estimates one county would receive 746,000 dollars a year in property tax revenue from the pipeline. However, one a commissioner from that county had the state revenue department calculate the county’s exact benefit, it was discovered they would receive only 50,000 dollars per year. Quite a difference! When asked by other counties if they would guarantee their figures in a written contract with the county, Summit declined and admitted the revenue figures were only “estimates”.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-07-13 07:48

    A consumer protection role should extend to protecting consumers from the lies of big corporations, like their inflated estimates of how much the project would contribute to building roads and schools in the affected areas via property taxes. The PUC has to weigh the project’s impact on the orderly development of the area; if Summit is inflating its tax estimates, then it is lying about the project’s impact on local development that it is using to justify the project before the PUC.

    And Ed makes an interesting point about Ernst and Young’s credibility. Its accountants lied on ethics exams for years, and Ernst & Young knew about it and did not report it to the SEC during the investigation; how can we trust Ernst & Young to tell South Dakota the truth?

    That $100M fine Ed mentions is the largest fine the SEC has ever dished out to an auditing firm. NPR reports, “Many of the employees interviewed during the federal investigation said they knew cheating was a violation of the company’s code of conduct but did it anyway because of work commitments or the fact that they couldn’t pass training exams after multiple tries.” Wow—sounds like a place where Kristi might want to get her daughter a job.

  4. jh 2022-07-13 21:21

    Finally, someone that will stand up for landowner rights against eminent domain for private gain! Jeff Barth is our guy and we need to back him before we loose all our rights.

    These big pipeline companies have been padding the pockets of our elected officials for years. Nelson says that he has nothing to do with eminent gain when in fact he does!! If the PUC denies the permit, then the pipeline company can not use eminent domain against unwilling landowners. This pipeline is very dangerous and if approved/installed, there will be a leak where everyone in contact could die or be seriously injured.

    Hope and pray that it’s not near you! Better yet, vote for Jeff Barth who is not influenced by deep pockets!!!

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