It was with great interest that we read last week's guest editorial by Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka. He was on point that agriculture is critically important to South Dakota's economy and that ethanol is a key market for more than half of the corn produced in South Dakota and produces distiller's grains that are an important feed source for South Dakota livestock.
He then talked about the need for ethanol producers to remain competitive, lower carbon emissions and continue to be innovative. Then came the sales pitch for a carbon dioxide pipeline that will collect CO2 from 30 ethanol plants (23 out of state) and transport the high-pressure liquid across eastern South Dakota to the North Dakota oil fields.
Rep. Hoffman stated that he is "thrilled" and "confident in Summit Carbon Solutions." He voiced concerns about untruths that he has witnessed and his hope that both sides are fairly represented.
While we respect Rep. Hoffman and his history of representing the folks of District 23, we would call on him to detail why he is so confident in Summit Carbon Solutions, the scientific scope of this operation and why he is asking for support for Summit Carbon Solutions' efforts even before "both sides" have been heard.
Here are some concerns that we and many of our farmer/landowner neighbors have with this pipeline project.
The largest ethanol producer in the nation is headquartered in South Dakota and it is not part of this project.
There are ways for ethanol plants to reclaim carbon onsite with no need for a spiderweb of pipelines carrying dangerous materials across private land.
There is emerging science on producing ethanol from carbon dioxide that could render these pipelines obsolete in the near future.
Summit Carbon Solutions is comprised of investors with deep political ties and a history of padding the campaign purses of well-placed politicians
This project will likely seek to use eminent domain to take private property for this pipeline. Eminent domain was intended for projects that serve a larger public good like highways, railroads, power lines, etc.
Transportation of CO2 as a high-pressure liquid in underground pipelines raises many questions about safety. There are only a few thousand miles of this type of pipeline and there has already been one serious pipeline rupture in Mississippi.
People along the routes of the pipeline will have very little input as to the location of these lines, especially if eminent domain is used.
There are issues with transparency with this project. For example, recently the South Dakota Senate's Commerce and Energy Committee invited Summit Carbon Solutions to give a presentation with almost no public notice and no rebuttal.
These are all serious questions that need to be answered before we can place our full confidence in Summit Carbon Solutions.
As Rep. Hoffman said, "facts matter." But it would be unwise to take all our facts from the company of investors who stand to make enormous financial gain through this project. Let's hear all the facts not from both sides, but from all sides. Supporting our ethanol industry and reducing carbon emissions are both worthy goals to strive for, but they need to be pursued with care and caution.
All options should be investigated and weighed against one another. We should not simply sell out to the high bidder.
Mark Lapka and Lloyd Schaunaman are McPherson County residents who live near Leola.
This article originally appeared on Aberdeen News: Ag producers, leaders need to learn more about CO2 pipelines