ADM’s carbon sequestration program was controversial from the start. The process sequesters or stores liquefied carbon dioxide about a mile beneath the surface. Apparently, a mile beneath Decatur and Macon County is one of the best locations in the world to store CO2. Lucky us.
So far, no mishaps or scares have happened, and ADM has been pumping CO2 beneath the city for a number of years. There is even a carbon sequestration education center on Richland Community College’s campus. I’ve been in the building and seen the equipment that is constantly monitoring the conditions below ground. Tremors or earthquakes are constantly monitored as well. A lot of engineering and scientific thought has gone into the process.
Now outside companies are looking to transport their CO2 emissions to Decatur as well, even from hundreds of miles away, requiring the construction of pipelines.
So, why are companies willing to spend so much to store CO2 in the first place? Well, there are huge tax credits and that means the rest of us are footing the bill. There’s also big money to made in it. Some of the wealthiest tech companies in America are pouring millions into the industry.
CO2 is a major cause of global warming, and preventing CO2 from entering the atmosphere will reduce the amount of global warming the planet will experience over the next several decades. I don’t question the need. There are good reasons to reduce CO2 emissions, but what are the risks associated with pipelines? What if a large amount of CO2 were to be released quickly from underground?
Well, we can look at recent news to see what a pipeline rupture could do. The small town of Sarartia, Mississippi, experienced just that in 2020 and the result was a number of unconscious people, car engines that couldn’t function, and breathing difficulties. A nearby CO2 pipeline had burst, sending up a white cloud of carbon dioxide on the small community of just 200 people. Thankfully, nobody died.
Carbon dioxide is a harmless gas, when in low amounts. We breathe out carbon dioxide. Plants convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. CO2 is a big deal here on planet earth. The trouble begins when there is too high of a concentration of CO2. In the case of a leak or explosion, the CO2 would dissipate rather quickly, but the damage doesn’t require much time. We kinda need to breathe on a minute-by-minute basis.
In the case of a sudden release of CO2 from the ground, it can be deadly. Look up the Lake Nyos disaster for an excellent example. It’s even proposed by some that the tenth plague of Egypt, as told in the Bible, may have been caused by a high concentration of CO2 from a volcano.
I don’t want to seem like I’m predicting doomsday, but to pretend that there are no possible downsides to CO2 pipelines and/or sequestration is disingenuous.
I’m not saying that carbon sequestration shouldn’t happen, but are we going overboard in Decatur? It would seem to me that storing and transporting massive amounts of CO2 through and beneath a city is risky. We just learned of a highly-engineered sub imploding two and half miles beneath the ocean next to a ship that was supposedly unsinkable. Things happen.
What also irks me is the financial incentive of it all. It’s a money making venture that doesn’t address many other environmental concerns. It makes corporations feel environmentally responsible, when they may be causing harm in a hundred other ways.
To me, common sense would suggest avoiding cities for storage and transport. That’s all I’m saying.
Just things to think about.