Recently, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the majority of opposition to carbon pipelines is based on “misconceptions.” That’s because organizations and interest groups, particularly in the Midwest, have focused their attention on pushing misinformation on the public about the safety and utility of carbon capture technology and infrastructure, including carbon pipelines.

Below are the biggest myths perpetuated by carbon pipeline opponents in the media…and why they’re wrong.

Myth #1: CO2 Pipelines aren’t safe

Fact: They are. According to the National Academies of Science, carbon pipelines are “among the safest in the industry.” Federal government safety data of the over 5,000 miles of CO2 pipelines currently in operation show that incidents are down 56 percent over the last five years. Since 2017, carbon pipelines have experienced 55 percent fewer incidents per mile than crude oil pipelines and 37 percent fewer incidents than refined products pipelines. And even these kinds of pipelines have very, very few incidents. Today, 99.999 percent of oil transported via pipeline reaches its destination without incident.

Myth #2: Landowner rights are violated by eminent domain

Fact: Eminent domain is a legal mechanism used to further the public benefit of infrastructure development. It is the same mechanism that has allowed, for example, the development of major highways that facilitate first responders and moving crops to market. In this case, carbon pipelines are not only addressing decarbonization, but they are also providing a pathway for industries, including agriculture and ethanol, to continue being commercially viable long-term. 

Pipeline opponents have argued that our nation’s agricultural systems need to “transform” in order to survive decarbonization. Leveraging carbon capture, which requires carbon pipelines, provides a way to lower environmental impact without the economic and other implications of overhauling operations.

Myth #3: Few regulations exist for carbon pipelines

Fact: Carbon pipelines, which are proven and safe, are under the purview of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), as well as state and local regulators. In fact, PHMSA is in the process of updating rules that would expand its regulatory oversight. While that process unfolds, carbon pipeline projects are advancing in close coordination with federal regulators and pipeline operators work within PHMSA guidelines.

Myth #4: Carbon pipelines damage topsoil and reduce crop yield

Fact: Pipeline construction on or near agricultural land is subject to strict remediation plans with state and local oversight and input.  Addressing soil compaction is a major part of these efforts.  Once subsequent restoration is completed, future crop productivity should not be impaired.

Pipeline opponents often fail to mention that Iowa State University, the same source they often point to as proving damage occurs, also found data showing recovery of yields and that no-till strategies improve corn production in the right-of-way zones, even during unfavorable weather conditions. 

Keeping our eye on the bigger picture, it is important to remember that carbon capture supports maintaining soil health by addressing a consequence of climate change.  As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found, “Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of heavy precipitation in the United States, which can harm crops by eroding soil and depleting soil nutrients.” NASA has also found that these climate impacts will be particularly acute within the decade.

Myth #5: Construction of carbon pipelines is on the rise and that’s a bad thing

Fact: Pipeline construction is on the rise, but that’s a good thing. Pipelines are the safest mode to transport energy, and transporting energy safely and efficiently is essential to keeping fuel and power affordable and reliable. Development of carbon pipelines is advancing because carbon capture technology is a viable and efficient way to support our nation’s economic and environmental goals.

Myth #6: For landowners, it’s all risk and no reward

Fact: Opponents to carbon pipelines and carbon capture writ large sometimes make the argument that landowners would be better served entering into agreements with wind and solar companies rather than carbon pipeline developers. But let’s be very clear here: many pipeline opponents also believe that farming operations are inherently harmful and advocate for only no-till practices and organic fertilizers. And the disruption to land use and activity from wind and solar energy operations would be by far more significant than underground pipeline construction. Particularly since that pipeline is a vital part of maintaining the health and longevity of the ethanol supply chain.

In fact, landowners do stand to benefit from the development of carbon pipeline projects – as do their communities. Carbon capture projects signify millions of dollars of investment, providing revenue that directly benefits state and local governments, and in turn helps fund the schools, hospitals, and other public institutions that communities rely on.

To put this in perspective, if all near to intermediate-term carbon capture opportunities in the State of Iowa, for example, are pursued, $2.6 to $3.9 billion in investment will be required to support these projects, creating between 720 – 1,040 ongoing, direct jobs and 810 – 1,220 indirect jobs each year for next 15 years. Additionally, the investment in transportation infrastructure will create nearly 900 jobs over the same time-period.

Myth #7: Carbon capture and storage extends the life of fossil fuels and the environmental impacts of those fuels

Fact: Today, the overwhelming majority of our energy consumption is based on fossil energy. Carbon capture, supported by carbon pipelines, is technological solution available to address just that. In fact, carbon capture can capture more than 90 percent of the CO2 emissions from power plants and industrial facilities and is one of the few processes available that tackles emissions from “heavy” industries like fuel and chemical manufacturing.

Myth #8: Carbon Capture and Storage hasn’t worked

Fact: It has and it is. The U.S. has been effectively deploying carbon capture for 50 years, with carbon safely stored in deep saline aquifers since 1996 with zero incident. The international environmental community, as well as the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), are aligned that carbon capture is a safe and essential technology to lower carbon emissions, while still creating and supporting economic growth throughout the U.S.

According to DOE, a domestic carbon capture market will create hundreds of thousands of direct jobs and nearly 2 million indirect jobs, all of which are reliable, high-paying positions in a desirable, sustainable sector. For states where these technologies are being leveraged, CCUS signifies billions of dollars of new investment.