MINOT, ND — Governor Doug Burgum has set a goal for North Dakota to be carbon neutral by 2030.
It’s a big problem.
“Big” isn’t really an adjective that covers it. On a recent episode of my podcast, Plain Talk, Trade Commissioner James Leiman told me about some $30 billion worth of projects underway for our state that fit with Burgum’s goal.
For a state that has struggled with access to capital since, well, statehood, this is an amazing turn of events.
Of that total, $4.5 billion is represented by a new carbon pipeline called Midwest Carbon Express that will be built by Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions.
Wade Boeschans, a longtime leader in North Dakota’s coal industry who is now vice president of Summit, also joined my podcast for an interview about what carbon capture portends for North Dakota.
The promise of these companies is not just about capturing the carbon emitted by our state’s dominant energy and agriculture industries. It’s about seeing North Dakota become a leader in the new carbon capture and storage industry.
But to deliver on that promise, we have to start off on the right foot, which means we’re very dependent on how Summit handles building its pipeline.
And some landowners are not yet sold.
Richland County, in the southeast corner of the state, recently passed a unanimous resolution opposing the use of eminent domain for the project. At a recent meeting of the Northwest Landowners Association, some expressed concern about the easements Summit is trying to negotiate, arguing that they do not provide enough protections for landowners and that the company is not offering enough money.
Note that projects such as pipelines or transmission lines, which require the negotiation and agreement of hundreds or even thousands of landowners, are a difficult exercise. Some of the initial objections are landowners looking for leverage to negotiate the best deal.
Good for them.
But no company involved in such a venture can please everyone. Not when some objections are ideologically motivated.
The Sierra Club is
. You would think this group would be happy with billions invested in capturing carbon, instead of emitting it into the atmosphere, but they are still politically invested in the fantastic idea that we can replace coal, oil and natural gas by wind turbines and solar panels.
They oppose carbon capture because it doesn’t fit with their utopian vision of how Americans should get their energy.
No amount of good faith on Summit’s part will overcome this kind of opposition.
Still, Summit has a big responsibility to get it right with this pipeline. Not just for their own bottom line, but for the future of carbon capture in North Dakota.
If we want to achieve Burgum’s goal, and if we want carbon capture to not only enhance the viability of our existing industries, but create a new industry for our state, we need Summit to get it right.