On Nov. 8 and 9, capitalist schemers met in Des Moines, Iowa, to continue their push for a carbon capture pipeline. Summit Carbon Solutions, Navigator and Wolf corporations plan a 2,000-mile pipeline through five states, including Iowa, under the guise of reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Since the Industrial Revolution, the capitalist class has been pouring climate-warming gases into the atmosphere, creating the current climate crisis. They now want us to believe that they, the capitalists, can solve the very crises they created, and one means they propose is another carbon capture pipeline. It defies logic and common sense that continuing fossil fuel extraction and production — the very thing that caused the climate crisis — can in any way be connected to a solution. Just as the drive for profit over the last centuries has caused the environmental crises, the capitalists’ proposed solution is also driven by their greed for profit. Science does not back up their claims of the efficacy of carbon capture.
A broad coalition consisting of environmental, social justice, anti-racism and Indigenous activists is pushing back. Resistance to the carbon capture project has been growing under the radar. A coalition including Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Great Plains Action Society, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, Sierra Club Beyond Coal and Sunrise Movement Cedar Rapids created a new organization called Buffalo Rebellion. The Party for Socialism and Liberation and others joined Buffalo Rebellion in its public protest. Buffalo Rebellion is remarkable for its intersectionality and shared focus on environmental racism.
On Election Day, Buffalo Rebellion-affiliated activists disrupted the conference held at Iowa’s Event Center in Des Moines. A one-hour session featuring speakers from the leading corporations behind the pipeline was disrupted seven times.
The next day on Nov. 9, hundreds answered Buffalo Rebellion’s call for a rally and march to the Event Center to apply even more pressure on the capitalist greenwashing profiteers seeking even more grift from the crises capitalism caused. Demonstrators blocked traffic for 15 minutes in front of the Event Center.
The environmental impact and efficacy of carbon capture pipelines
Just manufacturing and placing a pipeline, regardless of what it is moving, is destructive to the environment. Two thousand miles of metal pipeline would be made by extracting metals from the earth, shipping them to fabrication sites, shipping the pipes to the U.S. sites and installing them. Each step along the way adds CO2 to the atmosphere. Raw materials and fabricated materials are shipped between continents and across continents, noticeably adding to the very problem the capitalists purport to be solving.
Installing the pipeline is also destructive to the environment in many ways. According to a white paper by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, harmful effects include, “erosion and sedimentation, loss of riparian vegetation, habitat loss and fragmentation, air quality impacts, … groundwater impacts, soil compaction, increased groundwater runoff, wetland degradation, and accumulative environmental impacts [all] along the length of the project.“
Since CO2 cannot be seen or smelled, it is very difficult to discover leaks or discharges into the environment. High concentrations of CO2 can cause severe health impacts and can even be lethal to human and non-human life. When leaks occur, the high concentrations of CO2 displace oxygen, resulting in harm to nearby populations. Pipelines in general are anything but safe, with hundreds of leaks occurring each year.
In addition to causing harm to the environment and raising safety concerns for people, carbon capture is also neither effective nor efficient, and does not reduce overall CO2 in the atmosphere. With carbon capture, equipment is placed at industrial sources, i.e., fossil-fuel power plants, ethanol, fertilizer or concrete plants. Some of the CO2 emissions are captured and moved to underground storage. The bottom line is that polluting industries are still releasing CO2 and other pollutants, with no incentive to reduce these planet-warming emissions. According to a guest opinion in the New York Times, subsidizing carbon capture, “handicaps technologies that reduce carbon dioxide production in the first place, tilting the playing field against promising innovations that avoid fossil fuels … while locking in long-term oil and gas use.”
CO2 levels in the atmosphere are currently over 415 ppm — 350 ppm signifies a stable atmosphere. As noted by Tina Landis in her book “Climate Solutions Beyond Capitalism,” shifting off fossil fuels to renewable energy while utilizing wide-scale ecological restoration to pull the legacy load of CO2 from the atmosphere is the only way to reduce the current, dangerous levels of CO2. This is the consensus of experts who rely on science and data and the consensus of citizens and activists who care about the health of the planet and its people.
Environmental activists have pointed out another concern about the carbon capture pipeline in Iowa: the potential use of captured CO2 to continue oil and gas extraction, known as enhanced oil recovery. The vast majority of carbon capture projects use enhanced oil recovery for the further extraction of oil and natural gas. This is the exact opposite of the purported purpose of reducing CO2 levels in the environment.
The capitalists pushing this carbon capture scheme have a special message for Iowa because Iowans bought into the prior capitalist lie that corn ethanol would be good for the environment and for Iowa’s economy and farmers. Of course this scheme turned out to be just that, a money-making scheme for the investor-elites, but not supported by the science. According to an article published in Energy Policy, “[A] mounting pile of studies shows corn ethanol has not dampened demand for fossil fuels, as expected, but has instead forced the conversion of grasslands and forests into croplands, … releasing carbon in the process.”
Iowa is the largest producer of corn ethanol in the United States. Yet, an article published in Inside Climate News notes that the data against ethanol as a viable option to lower CO2 continues to accumulate. The capitalist schemers are now claiming the carbon capture pipeline will safely contain the dangerous CO2 pollutants caused by ethanol production.
Diverse coalition of activists protesting the pipeline
Activists reject these corporate carbon capture pipeline plans and reject the greenwashing propaganda used to justify it. For two days they directly disrupted the capitalists’ conference in Des Moines.
Kim Hageman, from Iowa CCI and Buffalo Rebellion, was so outraged by what the panelists were saying that she felt compelled to disrupt the conference and set the record straight: “They just kept spewing lies … and in the end all they’re doing is capturing … their own carbon … which means basically that taxpayers are paying them to produce more carbon and put it in the ground … It doesn’t stop CO2 production.”
“Carbon pipelines are not safe,” Jaylen Cavil, of BLM and Buffalo Rebellion, declared as he interrupted the conference. “In 2020 a pipeline carrying liquified carbon exploded in Satartia, Mississippi, sending deadly carbon dioxide towards a nearby town.” As he was being led out, he yelled, “Over four dozen people were hospitalized, leaving many permanently disabled. Despite this, developers plan to build these carbon pipelines here in Iowa, in our population centers.” Exiting the hall he warned, “These pipelines are not safe. They will kill us and kill our environment.”
As a panelist was explaining how smoothly the land grabbing was going, Jake Grobe, who leads Iowa CCI’s Climate Action efforts and also a member of Buffalo Rebellion, interrupted. As they were leading him away, he raised his voice louder, declaring, “My entire life I’ve been watching people like you with money and wealth lie about the climate crisis and lie about your false solutions. We already know how to deal with the climate crisis, and it doesn’t involve liquefying carbon off your ethanol plants. You burn more fossil fuels producing ethanol than you save while we drink the poison that you are creating in our state.”
Activists from diverse communities within Iowa were united in their protests against the carbon capture scheme, fiercely united against their corporate lies and greed.
There are solutions to lower CO2, but not under capitalism
Carbon capture pipelines do not reduce overall CO2 levels. But solutions that would reduce greenhouse gasses and cool the climate do exist and are already in use in various parts of the world. These solutions, which are detailed by Landis in “Climate Solutions” include restoring the prairie, forests, waterways and wetlands; creating an expansive, zero-emission public transit system; and transitioning away from monocrop, industrial agriculture to regenerative organic methods. These practices are known, readily available, and appropriate for Iowa’s prairies. Great Plains Action Society refers to these practices as rematriation and re-indigenization. They are long-term, sustainable, and in fact, restorative practices that reduce CO2 levels and restore other environmental degradation.
So why aren’t these practices being discussed or offered in Iowa? Why is it that an ineffective carbon capture pipeline is the plan being pushed? It’s because the capitalist system is rigged by the owning class and they rig it in favor of profit over everything else. As noted in the book “Socialist Reconstruction,” “Maintaining the imperialist world order and the capitalist system, that is, making sure that the billionaire class and most privileged sectors of society don’t have to change how they produce and consume energy, is prioritized over the risk of even more extreme and unpredictable ecological damage.”
A socialist restructuring of energy production with coordination and planning is the only way the needs of the people and the planet can be met. While capitalists’ are hyper-focused on this quarter’s profits, the long term care and consideration of peoples’ needs and the planet’s needs is the orientation of socialism. Socialism is the solution. Socialism has solutions. But only in a socialist society that is more justly and equitably structured and organized can these real and sustainable solutions be implemented.