Bender: You're footing the bill to turn North Dakota into a CO2 landfill

"The 2,000-mile pipeline ... would transport deadly liquified waste from ethanol plants in five states here for “sequestration” (cough). One North Dakota ethanol plant would benefit. One is the loneliest number. It's the loneliest number since the number zero."

Tony Bender

Summit Carbon Solutions has been issuing cheerful press releases, lacking only smiley faces, about the benefits of their pipeline. Which mostly benefits them.

The project will dump megatons of toxic CO2 underground north of Bismarck.

Hold it. Did I say “dump?” I meant “sequester.” That's the proper Orwellian nomenclature.

But some landowners are balking, and former Mayor John Warford has the crazy notion that this sort of “economic development” devastates property values, so there's been a run on pitchforks, tiki-torches, and wokeness in Bismarck.

The 2,000-mile pipeline, a Doug Burgum pipe dream, would transport deadly liquified waste from ethanol plants in five states here for “sequestration” (cough). One North Dakota ethanol plant would benefit. One is the loneliest number. It's the loneliest number since the number zero.


Hold it again. Did I say “waste?” What I meant was, and admittedly, this is a new angle, “It's a commodity.” That's what former 8th District Rep. Dave Nehring said last week during a McIntosh County Commission meeting.

Uh, OK. So, it's a Jedi mind trick. Stealth presidential aspirant Burgum has apparently hypnotized four other states into sending us their uber-valuable “commodity.” Elect him now! He'll bamboozle Canada out of free Moosehead. Or free health care, even. And hoodwink Mexico into sending us a workforce.

What's that? Oh. Well, let's go, Brandon!

It's true. You can make things from CO2. I Netscaped it. Things like fertilizer, Nehring said. Not that un-sequestering CO2 from the center of the earth makes sense. Not that there's a fertilizer factory waiting at the end of the pipeline, either. Lots of fertilizer floating around, though.

Fortunately, it's foolproof except for that time a ruptured pipeline hospitalized 45 people in Collateral Damage, Mississippi. This “commodity,” however, will be 100% safely stored underground unless it migrates. Probably not into groundwater, though. Pollution never pollutes. “Commodities,” I mean.

Nehring objects to calling the “sequestration” site a landfill. Remember him? Despite Burgum's wherewithal, he was un-sequestered after one term by legislative wild man Jeff Magrum, and with that haunting your resume, you'd be cranky about fake news “misrepresentations,” too. It's like losing at darts to Ray Charles. And he's dead.

For Nehring, it's a gig, one marginally legitimized by former Gov. Ed Schaefer who once toured the state in an RV, funded entirely by thin air, kissing hands and shaking babies or something like that, shilling for Big Oil tax breaks just because he thought it was the right thing to do.

What's behind the curtain this time? Easy. Ethanol props up a dying fossil fuel industry. It's a cheap octane booster. Harold Hamm's invested $250 million in this $4.5 billion project.


We interrupt this column to be fairly balanced: Have I mentioned that solar energy causes sunburn and wind towers massacre whole herds of birds? However, we do have a constitutional right to bear wind.

Anyway, Summit would get $85 per ton in federal tax credits — about $1 billion annually. Taxpayers also surrender billions in corn subsidies each year.

Meanwhile, Summit's “misrepresenting” the property taxes this would generate. Century Codes 57-06-17.1 and 57-06-17.2 conveniently absolve carbon pipelines of property taxes for 10 years with no guarantee it'll be viable that long. The state reimburses counties for the loss of those property taxes.

This “industry” simply transfers taxpayer dollars to corporations.

It's hardly economic development.

Correction: Summit Carbon Solutions would get $85 per ton in federal tax credits, about $1 billion annually. The amount per ton was wrong in an earlier version of this column. It has been corrected.

Opinion by Tony Bender
Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column from North Dakota for Forum News Service.
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