Q&A: Farmers thoughts on CCS
This fall, IL Corn teamed up with Illinois ethanol plants to host informational sessions highlighting the connection between carbon and corn production.
Lauren Lurkins, an environmental law attorney and the founder of Lurkins Strategies, LLC, traveled to six locations and shared the current state of the corn industry, threats it is facing, and opportunities for expansion through the series “The Crossroads of Carbon and Corn”. Farmers came to the meetings prepared with thought-out questions on the safety, profitability, and future of carbon and agriculture.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions from farmers and Lurkin’s summarized answers.
- As we look at carbon capture and storage, what is the timeline for the technology?
L: This was a question at almost all the meetings. Currently, most ethanol plants are exploring the CCS process and the procedures it takes to pursue the technology. There are numerous rules pending at the federal level that the industry is waiting on. The U.S. Department of Treasury’s decision on the utilization of the GREET model for Inflation Reduction Act tax credits is one of the most critical. We expect carbon capture and storage to become a reality for more ethanol plants at the end of 2024 or the beginning of 2025.
- If my farm is near an ethanol plant, is my pore space valuable? Does this make my land more valuable?
L: The short answer is yes. It would be our recommendation that a farmer near sequestration pore space reaches out to the ethanol plant and opens the dialogue for ongoing conversations. Consult professionals, engineers and attorneys that can help you make the best decision for your farm.
- Why are ethanol plants interested in this technology?
L: Agriculture is not alone in looking for ways to mitigate its environmental footprint. In comparison to other industries, Ethanol has a leg up, in my mind, because the CO2 they produce from their industrial process is a pure output and there are less steps needed to turn it into something more valuable. In addition, tax incentives in this space could help drive new investment in their plants and open new markets for corn and ethanol both domestically and internationally.
- How will farmers get paid for their on-farm conservation practices that reduce a crop’s carbon intensity score?
L: This was a common question, and something farmers are excited about as an avenue to stay relevant and profitable in the future. For decades we have talked about no-till, cover crops, nutrient management and now it is unlocking the opportunity for others to take on those practices. We focused on a slide in the presentation comparing ethanol’s carbon footprint with various practices. With carbon sequestration, the carbon intensity of ethanol drops drastically. However, it drops even further when you incorporate on-farm conservation practices. I think this is the next big area of advocacy for commodity groups to ensure farmers are reaping the financial benefit of these practices. The other conversation on this topic is that lowering the carbon intensity score is different than the early adopters of carbon markets that got shut out of opportunities. This is an equal opportunity where farmers can take on practices year after year and potentially see a higher premium upon delivery.
- The current administration is pushing carbon capture and storage, but what happens if public policy changes?
L: We didn’t talk a lot about politics in these meetings, however if you look back at Dr. Sallie Greenberg’s longer webinar, she addresses this question. She worked for three decades on carbon capture and storage and saw the investment from the U.S. Department of Energy through multiple administrations. You are going to have the sunsetting of some of these tax credits in the future which will give the industry an advocacy opportunity to keep people interested and at the table. There is a lot of capital investment happening across the ethanol industry today and people will want to continue to see that operational and profitable.
One of my favorite comments from a farmer at one of the events was his optimistic remarks on the future of the industry. He said, “If I hear what you’re saying now, it’s pretty good to be a corn farmer today. If all of this shakes out the way we want it, it’ll be really good to be a corn farmer in the future.” Learn more from Lurkins about the opportunities for carbon in agriculture in a short video here.