Three longtime ethanol industry champions are joining forces to roll out the new American Carbon Alliance and educate others about the positive aspects of carbon capture technology. 

The group will be led by Tom Buis, the former CEO of Growth Energy and President of the National Farmers Union, former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and Iowa entrepreneur and renewable energy investor Nick Ryan. The ACA will “advocate for public policy that helps transform our ag and energy economy by enhancing our nation’s energy security.”

The group plans to officially launch the Alliance next week, along with additional business leaders, farmers, energy producers, construction trade workers and others. The Summit Agricultural Group, led by Iowa businessman Bruce Rastetter, provided initial support to get the group off the ground, according to a memo obtained by Agri-Pulse. Rastetter is also the driving force behind Summit Carbon Solutions. 

When you look at Rural America, Buis told Agri-Pulse, “there is no greater economic opportunity on the horizon than what we do in the carbon capture effort.”

“We’ve got to deal with a carbon index (CI) that kind of has been anointed upon us. If we don't lower that carbon index in the future, there's no increased (ethanol) demand out there.” 

Buis pointed out how closely intertwined carbon capture and storage (CCS) for ethanol plants is to the success of not only those plants but also corn markets, the protection of the environment and to the broader needs for rural economic development. 

“I always use the line that a rising tide lifts all boats, but the sinking ship brings everybody down in the wake,” Buis said. “If you have an excess supply of commodities, in a commodity as large as corn, it's going to bring the price of all commodities down. And we've all lived long enough to experience those days when it was not fun and certainly not profitable to be into farming.”

Tom-Buis-300.jpgTom Buis, American Carbon AllianceCurrently, a lower CI score increases the value of ethanol in low-carbon fuel markets, such as California, a state that incentivizes liquid fuels produced with lower carbon than traditional gasoline or diesel. Other states are either starting to follow suit or considering a similar approach.

Ethanol producers who decarbonize their product are also able to generate additional revenue from a 45Q renewable energy tax credit linked to carbon capture.

But carbon capture is not without controversy, especially when firms need to build pipelines to transport the CO2 from where it is captured to the underground geologic formations where it can be stored. Pipeline companies are willing to pay landlords to build on private land and to restore any land that has been disturbed. However, some of those efforts have generated protests from environmental activists as well as landowners who are opposed to pipelines moving CO2 under their property.

Approximately 5,000 miles of pipeline already carry CO2 in the U.S., primarily linking natural CO2 sources to older oil fields where the CO2 is used for enhanced oil recovery. However, a much more expansive CO2 pipeline network could be needed for CCS to meet national goals for greenhouse gas recovery, according to a Congressional Research Service report on CCS.

Peterson says he’s familiar with some of the protests that have occurred, primarily surrounding oil pipelines, but that changed when “people started to see not only the benefits overall of what was going on and the amount of money they could get paid to have a pipeline buried on their land. And once it's in there, you don't even know it's there. All of a sudden, you had people wanting this pipeline to go across their property.”

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Without a strong educational effort from the ACA, Peterson says he fears a “possible negative impact” if we don't maintain a vibrant ethanol industry and provide some growth that will generate additional revenue for rural America.

“Once people figure this out, I think there's going to be strong support for the whole effort,” he added. 

Some electric vehicle advocates also oppose biofuel industry growth, suggesting low-carbon fuels are not needed as more consumers purchase battery-powered vehicles. But Peterson says that’s an unrealistic perspective. 

He says folks in rural America are not buying electric cars like they are in big cities. 

“It's going to be 30-40 years before you get the same switch to all-electric — if you ever do — and if there is a bridge fuel, it’s going to be ethanol. It’s the only fuel that can meet some of these requirements, and is available in adequate volumes.”

Buis says “Joe Public” wants climate change addressed, but doesn’t really care what the fuel is.

“If we can lower our carbon index almost by 50% with carbon capture, and then, by 2030 or 2035, we're looking at net zero. Carbon negative would be the goal. And if you're carbon negative, if you're using neutral fuels that we're talking about, that's better than a battery-powered electric vehicle, which oftentimes, people don't talk about because of the overall impact on the environment,” Buis added. 

Ryan says the Alliance is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit that’s structured as a traditional membership organization designed to attract like-minded individuals and other trade associations. 

“One of the reasons we landed on ‘alliance’ is because of the uniqueness of carbon capture and its benefits,” he explained. “You have so many natural alliances that you can form, and it's beyond even agriculture.” 

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