Terry Branstad

Carbon capture and storage really does have potential to bring together individuals and organizations across the political spectrum including economic development leaders and environmental advocates.

As the global health pandemic continues to dissipate, policymakers here in the Midwest and across the country are confronting the dual challenges of rebuilding our economy and addressing the threat posed by greenhouse gas emissions.

While there is no single silver bullet solution to these issues, one of the most meaningful steps we can take today is committing ourselves to investing in carbon capture and storage projects. This technology, which has been proven over decades, captures carbon dioxide produced from power generation or other industrial processes and prevents it from being released into the atmosphere. These types of projects can generate thousands of good-paying jobs and help the United States and the broader global community meet ambitious environmental goals that are more urgent with each passing year.

Following my time as U.S. ambassador, I have been proud to serve as a senior policy adviser to the newly formed Summit Carbon Solutions as it prepares to initiate its Midwest Carbon Express project. This $4.5 billion investment is expected be the single largest carbon capture and storage project in the world. By connecting more than 30 ethanol facilities in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska, this critical infrastructure investment will be capable of safely capturing and permanently storing 12 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. That is the equivalent of taking 2.6 million cars off our roads annually and represents one of the most consequential steps we can take toward reaching net zero emissions by 2050. As we experience increasingly severe weather patterns here in the Midwest, including more regular flooding, costly droughts, and even derecho windstorms, meeting this goal is essential to protecting our communities and quality of life in the years to come.

There are other broader environmental benefits as well. The Midwest Carbon Express investment will put ethanol on track to become a net-zero or even carbon-negative fuel by the end of this decade. The demand for this type of clean fuel source is growing steadily in the United States, and our Midwest-based partner plants are well positioned to deliver in these emerging markets, assuming we make the necessary investments now. The ethanol industry has been an important component of our regional economy for years, supporting 360,000 jobs, providing a $25 billion boost to household income, and purchasing 40% of corn crops grown in the United States. Given the challenges the industry has faced in recent years, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision siding against renewable energy, the opportunity to access these new customers comes at a potentially critical juncture.

From an economic standpoint, this particular investment will generate between 14,000 and 17,000 jobs during the construction phase and between 350 and 460 permanent jobs once the project is operational. It will also involve partnerships with a diverse group of Midwest-based suppliers and local companies across the project’s five-state footprint. These steps will help enhance the economic landscape across Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska particularly in smaller and rural communities.

As someone who has been involved in the political process for a number of years, I know the current environment often discourages cooperation. My hope is that Midwest Carbon Express, and other similar efforts, will be the exception to that rule. Carbon capture and storage really does have the potential to bring together individuals and organizations from across the political spectrum including economic development leaders and environmental advocates along with residents of both urban and rural communities. Midwest Carbon Express represents an extraordinary opportunity to grow our economy, build our job base, improve our infrastructure, and address the preeminent challenge of reducing carbon emissions.

As originally featured in the Des Moines Register.