116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Business News / Agriculture
What they’re thinking: Smart Carbon Network says it wants to cut through emotion of CO2 pipelines
New Iowa-based nonprofit declines to disclose its financial support
Tensions over carbon dioxide capture pipelines continue to rise in Iowa as regulators prepare to hold hearings in the fall over the first of three projects to seek a permit.
Smart Carbon Network, a new not-for-profit organization, wants to “take away some of the noise” and talk about how Iowa could benefit financially from projects that would capture CO2 from ethanol plants and use it for industrial purposes or store it underground in other states.
“It’s so emotional,” Joe Heinrich, a Maquoketa farmer and executive director of the group, said about the pipeline debate in Iowa. “If you take all the noise away, this is going to change the landscape of Iowa not just for farmers, but the rural communities.”
The Gazette talked with Heinrich about the new group.
Q: Could you describe the mission of the Smart Carbon Network?
A: “We want to make sure we’re getting good information out to the communities and the consumers. Make sure we’re talking about responsible carbon capture and sustainable carbon use. We’re not a lobbying coalition.”
Q: People will want to know who’s behind the network. Can you speak to how the organization is supported financially?
A: “I don’t really want to get into how it’s financially supported. It’s supported by our members. We have members willing to put dues into it that pays for the education we’re doing. It was industry, it was agriculture, it was academia.”
The group has a three-person board of directors, it says on its website:
- Charles McConnell, executive director of the Center for Carbon Management in Energy at the University of Houston
- Elizabeth Worrell, managing director and general counsel for the Pipe Line Contractors Association, based in Arlington, Va.
- Steve Wellman, farmer and former director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture
Q: You are a former state vice president for the Iowa Farm Bureau. Is that group a supporter of the Smart Carbon Network?
A: “Farm Bureau, that was a great time of my life. I will never say anything bad about the Iowa Farm Bureau. It’s not the reason I’m here, let’s put it that way. That’s two totally different things: my past involvement with Farm Bureau and this.”
Q: How do you plan to provide education about carbon capture and storage?
A: “We’re trying to get the message out via interviews and op-eds, things like that. We’ll be trying to contact different community members. I will try to work one-on-one as much as I can. We also have a plan of action with advertising and media. We want to be a go-to place if people have questions about carbon management, carbon use and carbon storage.”
Q: Do you support the proposed pipeline projects in Iowa?
A: “We support any of the projects that are going to help to create that carbon capture, storage and use part of it. You would say we’re in favor of the pipelines. You and I both know the issues that are coming with it. I fully understand in terms of making sure you’re compensated fairly, the ground is put back the way it should be and you’re compensated for any damage to the lot. Those things need to be worked out.“
Q: What’s your position on eminent domain for pipeline projects?
A: “That’s not a realm we’re going to get into. My hope, as a landowner and neighbor, is that these companies will come in and do everything they can so they don’t have to use eminent domain at all. It doesn’t make any friends; it’s not a pleasant thing.”
Q: Why do think carbon capture is the right move for Iowa?
A: “California and several states on the West Coast are going to be requiring low-carbon ethanol. If we don’t have that market to sell that ethanol to, it’s going to affect our communities.”
Heinrich sees more companies with plans to use the CO2 captured from ethanol plants for industrial purposes rather than treating it as waste. “People are going to buy that carbon instead of putting it into the ground. There’s just such a huge market for this.”
Q: How do you think the federal tax credits available for carbon capture have affected carbon capture plans in Iowa?
A: “It goes beyond that tax credit. That is a good way to get it started, but I think it will take off on its own. There will be enough of a market for that carbon down the road. You’ll still need the pipelines to move the excess.”
Q: What about the hundreds of Iowans who oppose the pipelines? How do you hope to win them over?
A: “There are some that will always be opposed to the whole pipeline issue. If they’ve got concerns about the pipeline, let’s address that. How do we make sure it’s safe and sustainable? If you look at the track record of pipelines, they’ve been very stable over the years compared to putting it on rail or running it down the road. The big thing are property rights, damages to the land and potential leaks. That’s where the track record of these companies need to be looked at before they are put in.”
Q: Will reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture be a priority for your group?
A: “Right now, we’re on carbon capture storage and use. I wouldn’t say we wouldn’t address it (reducing emissions from agriculture) in the future, but where we’re starting from is this because it seems to be the biggest issue in front of us.”
Q: Should we be growing so much corn for ethanol?
A: “We’ve tried to address lowering our carbon footprint across our operations. Other farmers are doing that. I think we do a great job of doing it. Can we do better? We always can do better. Having low-carbon ethanol would help this along also. I fully believe we need these (ethanol) products for years to come.”
Comments: (319) 339-3157; email@example.com