White House issues $2 billion in loans for controversial CO2 pipeline construction

To achieve its climate goals, the United States lean on technology which captures planet-warming carbon dioxide in industrial factories before it enters the atmosphere. For this material to make financial sense, the country will need 30,000 miles of new pipeline, more than all the gas pipelines in California, New York and Pennsylvania. combined – to ship this CO2 from where it is captured to where it can be used or buried underground.

The Biden administration is ready to pay the down payment on the construction of this infrastructure.

On Thursday, the Department of Energy launched a $2 billion loan program to fund pipeline construction, rail transportation and other shipping methods, the agency told HuffPost. Called the Carbon Dioxide Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Program, or CIFIA, the fund will be available until 2026, unless fully spent by then, and will be jointly administered. by the Department of Energy’s Office of Lending Programs and the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management.

“A giant challenge in deploying carbon management technologies to reduce emissions is being able to transport CO2 to where it is ultimately sequestered or used,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement to HuffPost. . “The CIFIA program will help industry overcome the challenges of accessing the seed capital needed to build shared infrastructure projects that are critical to advancing our clean energy economy.

The program will undoubtedly generate some controversy and possibly resistance from landowners and other stakeholders regarding the proposed pipelines.

The United States has operated a small network of carbon dioxide pipelines for more than half a century. Until 2020 it was widely considered safe. But that year, a CO2 pipeline ruptured in Satartia, Mississippi, spewing out a cloud of carbon dioxide that sickened dozens of people in the surrounding area, a HuffPost survey found in 2021. Since CO2 expels the oxygen needed to ignite an engine, the crash disabled motor vehicles, preventing victims from escaping.

In response, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announcement in May, it would establish new rules and standards for CO2 pipelines. The agency is expected to unveil its new proposals later this year.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm testifies before a Senate committee about the Department of Energy’s 2023 budget.

NICOLAS KAMM via Getty Images

But the agency is consistently understaffed, and President Joe Biden has yet to name an official leader. According to a Call report.

Landowners and environmentalists who oppose new pipelines are also organizing against proposals like Summit Carbon Solutions’ plan to build a 680-mile project across Iowa for carbon dioxide captured at mills. ethanol.

The vast amounts of farmland and fertilizer needed to grow corn for ethanol can translate to 24% higher emissions for biofuel than equivalent amounts of gasoline, according to a recent study. And environmentalists have long complained that enhanced carbon capture technology generally makes it easier to keep using fossil fuels even when there are more climate-safe alternatives, especially in sectors such as electricity production. ‘electricity.

But experts say there are few better options for decarbonizing parts of the industrial sector that depend on fossil fuels to reach the high temperatures needed to make chemicals, steel and cement – ​​all of which are expected to drive up demand. as the country builds more renewables. power stations, power lines and electric vehicles.

If recently enacted tax credits to capture carbon dioxide are “not being used in a wide variety of industrial facilities, then something has gone very wrong,” Rebecca Dell, carbon capture expert and industrial emissions manager at the San Francisco-based ClimateWorks Foundation. , Told HuffPost in August.

That, she said, “is going to take pipelines.”

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