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Carbon capture will enhance ethanol industry and support Iowa’s corn growers

By Rep. Randy Feenstra

For nearly 30 years, the biofuels industry has been one of the key drivers of Iowa’s economy. Tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity and investment are directly tied to the manufacturing facilities across our state that produce biofuels. In fact, local ethanol producers now purchase more than half of all corn grown in the state, which means a strong ethanol industry remains one of the key ingredients to ensuring a strong ag economy.

Given the critical importance of this industry here in Iowa, we need to continue taking the steps necessary to ensure that ethanol remains competitive in the years to come – and by extension, ensuring a strong marketplace continues to exist for those that earn their livelihood through corn production. One of the most immediate steps we can take to achieve this goal is to develop and expand infrastructure that supports carbon capture and storage projects. These types of investments have the potential to provide a substantial and long-term boost to ethanol producers by allowing them to access the increasing number of markets that have adopted low carbon fuel standards. In addition to states that have already adopted these standards, other states are currently considering similar initiatives and it is highly likely that more states will formally follow suit.

Carbon capture and storage projects provide ethanol producers the opportunity to accelerate their ongoing efforts to reduce the carbon intensity, or CI, score of their product. In reducing their CI score, these manufacturers can not only sell their product in the growing low carbon fuel standard marketplace, but also sell that product at a premium. The economic benefits are enormous – it boosts the bottom line of ethanol producers, ensures there is a strong marketplace for corn and corn byproducts, and helps maintain the strong land values of Iowa’s agricultural land.

One example of carbon capture and storage is Summit Carbon Solutions’ proposed Midwest Carbon Express project. This multi-billion investment includes partnerships with more than 30 ethanol plants across the Midwest, including 12 in Iowa and a number right here in the Fourth District. Those counties include Wright, Cerro Gordo, Dickinson, Chickasaw, Story, Cherokee, Greene, Hardin, Ida, Sioux, and Plymouth – and possibly more in the future. Enhancing the economic position of the facilities in these areas will at the same time enhance the overall economies in communities across northwest, central, and north central Iowa. Moreover, this project will create more than 15,000 jobs during construction and more than 400 permanent jobs once in operation, providing a boost to local contractors, businesses, and suppliers in the meantime.

As the conversation continues around infrastructure, I believe we need to look at carbon capture and storage as one of the best and most immediate steps we can take to realize meaningful economic and environmental benefits. For example, many members of Congress, including representatives on both sides of the aisle, have considered and now support increases to the 45Q tax credit to encourage more investments in carbon capture and storage as a way to boost rural economies and reduce CO2 emissions. This is the type of bipartisan action we can take now to provide an immediate and ongoing positive impact in Iowa and beyond.

As we continue working to revive our economy after the fallout of the pandemic, it is more critical than ever that we support the key industries that help maintain a vibrant and healthy economy here in Iowa. Carbon capture and storage is one way that we can accomplish this for the biofuels industry — and at the same time support farmers, maintain strong land values across Iowa, reduce emissions, and drive long-term economic growth.

Randy Feenstra, a father of four, represents Iowa’s 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House, where he serves on the House Committees on Agriculture, Budget, and Science, Space, and Technology. Previously, he served as a City Administrator, County Treasurer, and Iowa state Senator.

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