Ramaswamy Says Carbon Capture Pipelines Harming Land Rights

The presidential hopeful and climate change skeptic says the issue affects the entire country.
Ramaswamy Says Carbon Capture Pipelines Harming Land Rights
Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition in Clive, Iowa, on April 22, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Beth Brelje

Republican presidential primary candidate Vivek Ramaswamy this week addressed land rights as they relate to proposed, carbon capture pipeline projects in Iowa, a local topic that has captured the passionate attention of landowners for two years.

“This is not something I’ve come to in the last few weeks,” Mr. Ramaswamy told a crowd gathered in Des Moines at a Dec. 1 event coordinated by the Free Soil Coalition, a project of Kansas rancher and media personality Trent Loos. “I’m here because this issue affects the entire country,” he said.

And he promised, even if he is not named the presidential nominee, he will continue to work against carbon capture pipelines.

Moving CO2

As a way of saving the planet from so-called climate change, carbon capture pipelines would connect to ethanol plants and capture the carbon dioxide (CO2) produced when corn is made into ethanol. The CO2 would travel thousands of miles to a storage hole deep in the ground, and for this, the federal government will pay companies huge incentives through the Carbon Capture and Sequestration tax credit—$85 per ton.

At least three projects have been planned in Iowa, although one pipeline developer, Navigator CO2 Ventures, announced in October that its project would not move forward. Navigator was set to store 12 million tons per year. That’s $1.02 billion in tax incentives paid by taxpayers to bury C02.

Still in the works is Wolf Carbon Solutions, which has partnered with Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. to build a carbon capture pipeline spanning more than 300 miles from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Decatur, Illinois. Its phase-one plan includes the capture, transport, and sequestration of 5 million to 6 million tons of CO2 each year. Phase two will increase that capacity to 12 million tons of CO2 annually by expanding Midwest and Ohio Valley industrial markets, according to the company website. Phase three envisions connecting the pipeline to cement, steel, and power plants plus other CO2 emitters.

The most prominent pipeline project is planned by Summit Carbon Solutions. It is a 2,000-mile web of pipelines in five states: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. Summit has a consortium of investors, including Summit Agricultural Group, Texas Pacific Group, and the troubled Korea-based energy company SK E&S.

To build these pipelines, companies must obtain right-of-way easements from landowners for every property along the routes, and while some landowners have agreed to accept payment for right-of-way on their land, hundreds don’t wish to give up their land and are fighting the plans. It is possible their land could be taken by eminent domain. But landowners say eminent domain is to be used only for the public good, and these pipeline projects are only good for enriching private companies.

Climate Agenda

“The climate change agenda is a hoax, and it is unnecessary to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” Mr. Ramaswamy said, standing next to a podium labeled “Truth. Speak the unspeakable.”

If CO2 pipelines move forward, Mr. Ramaswamy said, it could be as an emergency order saying the world desperately needs to bury CO2, and that would only be the beginning of losing property in the name of climate change.

“I want you to know what’s coming. Ethanol plants are not the only things that you let carbon dioxide into the air. You mark my words, if that is justified, the Biden administration or anyone coming in after them are going to be able to come in your home and seize your gas stove and leave a $50 check in your mailbox because it was necessary,” Mr. Ramaswamy said.

He said the same goes for a gas-powered vehicle, a furnace, or a cow; the same argument applies—if the government says it is necessary, it opens a Pandora’s Box.

“George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson would be appalled,” said Mr. Ramaswamy, who added that more Republicans should be speaking out about land rights issues.

Losing Sleep

Chris Hayek of Fort Dodge, Iowa, agreed that not enough politicians are speaking about the national implications of CO2 pipelines.

Ms. Hayek is a corn and soybean farmer with cropland affected by the Summit project who traveled to Des Moines to hear Mr. Ramaswamy.

“I’ve had sleepless nights over all this stuff for two years, you know? I'd like to get a good night’s sleep.”

Chris Hayek of Fort Dodge, Iowa, in front of the Vivek Ramaswamy campaign bus in Des Moines, Iowa, Dec. 1, 2023. (Courtesy of Chris Hayek)
Chris Hayek of Fort Dodge, Iowa, in front of the Vivek Ramaswamy campaign bus in Des Moines, Iowa, Dec. 1, 2023. (Courtesy of Chris Hayek)

She was happy that Mr. Ramaswamy was bringing broader attention to the issue.

“He seemed forthright. I was surprised at how educated he sounded on the whole boondoggle,” Ms. Hayek said. “I wasn’t into politics before all this stuff.”

At GOP meetings, Ms. Hayek and her husband have asked representatives for Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis where they stand on CO2 pipelined and eminent domain, but the representatives were unable to say.

“They wouldn’t say one way or the other. So to me, when they won’t say one way or another, I take it that it’s not important to them, and they don’t care,” Ms. Hayek said.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy said in August that using federal tax credits for these pipelines makes no sense.

“If they can get away with this, from now on, any wealthy businessman who has a project that they want can now go to the government and get eminent domain to condemn your property in order to build a project that has a dubious, if any, public benefit,” Mr. Kennedy said during an August town hall near Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Republican Ryan Binkley, also running a presidential campaign, has spoken in opposition to CO2 pipelines.

Beth Brelje is a national, investigative journalist covering politics, wrongdoing, and the stories of everyday people facing extraordinary circumstances. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]