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Public resistance threatens CO2 burying

The ethanol plant that's owned by Marathon, the oil company, and The Andersons, an Ohio-based agribusiness enterprise. Battelle, an R&D lab, led the government-funded project to inject carbon emissions from the ethanol plant and bury them miles beneath the earth.

Read the first part of this series: Greenville opposes burying CO2


by Sarah Gardner

The mayor of Greenville, Ohio wasn't initially opposed to burying carbon emissions miles beneath his hometown. If it worked with CO2 from the local ethanol plant, then it might work to bury emissions from plants that burn coal. But after months of phone calls and protests over a government-backed sequestration project, Mike Bowers made up his mind.

"Ultimately you do need to listen to your constituency. It's always better safe than sorry," says Bowers. "If it's an unproven science, then it's just that -- an unproven science."

Those words no doubt grate on Chuck McConnell at Battelle. That's the R&D lab that led the Greenville project. McConnell says for decades petroleum companies have injected CO2 underground to help squeeze out hard-to-reach oil. And burying carbon emissions off Norway's coast has proceeded safely since the mid 90's.

"I'm not going to suggest that anybody's concerns shouldn't be addressed. But we can't spend the next five or 10 years talking about it," says McConnell.

That's because he says time to contain global warming is running out. He says sequestration is a Catch-22. The demonstration projects are aimed partly at building public trust. But developers can't build public trust if they can't get local approval to demonstrate the technology. Battelle will move its demonstration project, but McConnell wouldn't say where. But this time, he says, Battelle will engage residents more, clearly explain the science, and call its plan something else.

"You don't declare it as a project," says McConnell. "You declare it as a development."

European sequestration efforts are running into opposition too. Protesters there were among the first to congratulate activists in Greenville when Battelle scrapped its project there.


Read the final part of this series on sequestration's strange bedfellows. Listen to an audio slideshow of Greenville and its residents. Click to listen.

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk.

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