Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Peat and Repeat

October 28, 2009
Peat and Repeat
This has been an odd week for news on Hyperion. There was an article in ‘My Voice’ in the Argus Leader written by associate professor of Physics at South Dakota State University, Professor Robert McTaggart, that should really get the ball rolling again for people who have doubts about the validity of Hyperion. The article is titled ‘Carbon sequestration still not safe, practical.’ In the article he states that it is not cost effective under current carbon capture and storage technologies. Furthermore we (Hyperion) will have to burn 30% more coal just to provide the energy to do the sequestration. There are questions on how compressed carbon dioxide will interact with rock, water and microbes underground and whether the storage is truly permanent. Safety also is an issue for the transport of carbon dioxide on the surface and its delivery underground.
Now, let’s look at this from a local standpoint. There is a ‘Professor Emeritus’ in physics from the University of South Dakota living right in this area. Do you suppose he knows this and hasn’t said anything to anyone about the volatility of sequestered carbon? I mean if an associate professor from SDSU can come out with these facts and figures, surely his peers in this profession know about it, he is just the one who comes forward with doubts. I guess it is like all theories in science, everybody has an opinion, just who are we to believe? I for one, because of my skepticism about Hyperion in the first place, believe what the professor from SDSU has to say. I might be dumb, but I’m not stupid! From everything I’ve read about IGCC and carbon capture it won’t work on a commercial scale. It is too much to handle. Now if we can figure that out, why can’t the State of South Dakota DENR and the BME figure it out? They must have blinders on and can only see the money. They can’t see the forest for the trees. What gets me more than anything is they must know this and choose to ignore it. This is like beating your head against the wall, it feels so good when you quit. Surely there must be questions about safety in transporting this to its final resting place. I realize carbon dioxide is an inert gas, but anything under pressure will explode when it gets beyond a safe level. When you overinflate a tire it will rupture and blow up. Why should carbon sequestration be any different? You can’t tell me that just because you can drill a hole in the ground below the level of the shale that you can keep the gas from resurfacing somewhere you don’t expect it and cause serious damage. That’s poppycock. It might not happen for 20 years; it might not happen for 20,000 but it is going to happen. But then we will all be dead and gone so who cares anyway. That’s enough about that. It is like beating a dead horse.
I was talking to an individual the other night and he came up with an interesting question about Hyperion. I’m sure it is on everyone’s mind, we just didn’t let it come to the forefront. With all the talk about cap and trade, what is to prevent Hyperion from not even building a refinery at all and just make money from selling credits to companies that exceed the limits? Hyperion has admitted that they will emit 19 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. Why did they stop at 19 Million? Why didn’t they say 29 Million? The thing is if they only emit 10 Million and they are permitted to emit 19 Million, then they can sell the 9 Million in credits for let’s say $100 a ton and make $19 Million a year and haven’t even done anything. Don’t forget, they have the air permit, so now that they can start construction they can just wait until the cap and trade is passed then just sit back and watch the money roll in. why not $1000 a ton? It is whatever the market will bear. Now don’t corner me on the street and ask me what the hell I’m talking about because I’m no expert on this, but the way Hyperion is operating, it wouldn’t surprise me.
I had an opportunity to listen and speak with Scott Munsterman last week at the library in Elk Point. I had talked to him last summer at the Union County fair in Alcester, and asked him the same question again about Hyperion. He dodged the answer by saying he is getting fully briefed about the situation and when he is elected governor he will take a step back on Hyperion. Fat chance. He also said he is a proponent of developing the I-29 corridor. He believes in local control and that this is an opportunity we shouldn’t pass up. I hate to be the eternal pessimist, but I told him that from an environmental standpoint, developing the I-29 corridor is a fast track to disaster because local control will be no control. Look what has happened with the Hyperion debacle. The state and the governor are so eager to have them come in, they fast tracked the company and it was a done deal before we knew about it. I’ll bet they didn’t even ask for a financial statement. Trust them, they are good guys. I don’t believe there is anyone who would look at it from a health perspective and certainly not from an environmental one. I can’t believe that it would be beneficial to us at all. What do you think this area will look like in 25 years? Are you going to protect your family or just let things take their course?


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