LNG: The U.S. and EU’s Deal for Disaster

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PDFClimate and Energy

LNG is natural gas cooled to -260 degrees Fahrenheit to facilitate shipping and storage. TheU.S. supply typically originates from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, an extremely dangerous process that jeopardizes communities and the climate alike. After traveling through pipelines, the gas is liquefied near coastal export terminals for transport. These facilities endanger nearby communities, threatening pollution and deadly explosions. From there, ocean tankers carry the
LNG to import terminals abroad for regasification and distribution. After the sabotage of two gigantic gas pipelines in the North Sea, infrastructure protection has been ramped up across Europe, with LNG terminals potentially vulnerable.

Food & Water Watch Members Think These Rights Are Worth Fighting For

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Climate and Energy

The work of protecting our food, water and climate takes an entire movement. And much of our power comes from awesome members who work to protect our resources from greedy corporations.

We have members in communities across the country, and while their local fights may seem different, at the core they have much in common. They usually start with corporations wielding big bucks and political influence to buy a free pass to pollute. And it leads to fed-up community members taking a stand, assembling their local allies, and using the tools and strategies we make available to them to win.

Here are just a few stories from people we have actively working on local fights right now.

Members like Marieke, Rulik, Julie and Brooke inspire admiration and hope for all of us. When we team up and share our time and resources, we build power that surprises corporations and wins many local fights. Those wins add up one by one, protecting what’s precious to all of us.

We think a future like that is worth fighting for, don’t you?

Help power fights like these!

BREAKING NEWS: Manchin’s Dirty Side Deal Sidelined — For Now

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Climate and Energy

In a surprise twist this evening, the Senate removed a controversial energy permitting provision, backed by Sen. Joe Manchin and the fossil fuel industry, from a must-pass budget continuing resolution. The provision – a so-called ‘side deal’ negotiated between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer – would have fast-tracked oil and gas infrastructure development, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

In past weeks, Manchin and Schumer all but guaranteed this legislation would pass. They didn’t foresee the efforts of grassroots organizers and clean energy activists throwing a wrench in their plans.

Food & Water Watch’s Executive Director Responds To Manchin’s Retreat

“Tonight’s turnaround represents a remarkable, against-all-odds victory by a determined grassroots climate movement against the overwhelming financial and political might of the fossil fuel industry and its Senate enablers. While the campaign against polluting oil and gas is far from over, this repudiation of Senator Manchin’s so-called permitting reform bill marks a huge victory against dirty energy – and also against dirty backroom Washington dealmaking.

“This victory would not have been possible without the coordinated efforts of hundreds of national and grassroots organizations, along with concerned Americans from coast to coast, working together for the health and safety of frontline communities and a livable future for the planet.

“Senator Schumer and Democratic leadership would be wise to heed the large and growing chorus of voices demanding an end to the fossil fuel era, and put Manchin’s permitting bill down for good.”

Wenonah Hauter — Food & Water Watch Founder and Executive Director

The Dirty Cost of The Inflation Reduction Act

When the IRA became law in August, some hailed it as a victory in the long fight for climate action. But it contained only remnants of a more ambitious climate and economic agenda from President Biden and Congressional Democrats. And the last of those ambitions died at the feet of Joe Manchin and his Big Oil patrons.

In exchange for his tie-breaking vote to pass the IRA, Manchin extracted a promise for legislation to fast-track permits for new fossil fuel infrastructure. 

This summer, leaked details of the deal had the American Petroleum Institute written all over it — literally. An “API” watermark branded the leaked memo, and the memo itself showed just how dangerous the legislation would be.

Now, we have the text of the legislation itself. And it just confirms the danger. 

If passed, Manchin’s pipeline deal would mean more pollution and more dirty energy projects in communities already hard-hit by big environmental burdens. And it would change the National Environmental Policy Act, making it harder for regulators to do their jobs and harder for threatened communities to voice concerns about new projects.

It’s simple — and terrible. Manchin’s deal would gut environmental protections, endanger public health and silence communities. 

Will Manchin Get Another Go At Passing His Dirty Side Deal?

Senator Manchin owes his fossil fuel funders big time. It’s likely that he’ll keep trying to get this ‘permitting reform’ (or some version of it) into legislation and passed. It’s crucial that we all remain vigilant and ready to strike it down with all of the people-power we can organize. 

Share the news — people power works!

Carbon Capture: Billions of Federal Dollars Poured Into Failure

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Climate and Energy

The Inflation Reduction Act, hailed as the most important federal climate legislation ever, places an expensive bet on carbon capture and storage/sequestration as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The law greatly expands the 45Q tax credit program that supports existing CCS investments. 

This move fulfills a long-standing goal of heavily polluting industries, which have long complained that the main obstacle to building robust, effective carbon capture facilities is the federal government’s lack of support for the technology. 

This is completely at odds with reality. In fact, the Obama administration’s economic recovery package included substantial spending on carbon capture. Despite billions of dollars in support, the initiatives mostly produced a series of failures – projects that either failed to ever get off the ground or those that were quickly abandoned. 

The remaining ‘success’ stories, meanwhile, can point to emissions reductions on paper that do not correspond to the overall pollution generated at these facilities. 

All in all, this track record should inform our current understanding of the very serious problems with carbon capture.  

Carbon Capture Has So Far Mostly Just Captured Taxpayer Money

In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) offered $3.4 billion for the research and development of CCS projects (of that total nearly $1 billion went unspent).1Lawson, Ashley J. Congressional Research Service. “Carbon Capture Versus Direct Air Capture.” November 16, 2021 at 2. Out of 11 large-scale demonstration projects selected by the Department of Energy (DOE), 9 were funded by the ARRA and only 2 remain operational.2US Government Accountability Office. (GAO). “Advanced Fossil Energy: Information on DOE-Provided Funding for Research and Development Projects Started From Fiscal Years 2010 Through 2017.” GAO-18-619. September 2018 at Highlights, 10 and 11; US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects.” GAO-22-105111. December 2021 at 4. Of the five commercial power plant projects, only one (Petra Nova) ever reached operation and Petra Nova faced serious challenges, forcing the plant to close after fewer than 4 years.3Congressional Budget Office (CBO). “Federal Efforts to Reduce the Cost of Capturing and Storing Carbon Dioxide.” June 2012 at 4; Anchondo, Carlos and Edward Klump. “Petra Nova is closed: What it means for carbon capture.” Energywire. September 22, 2020.

This track record should elicit serious concern; the Inflation Reduction Act increases federal tax credits for CCS technology, putting even more public dollars on the line for a technology with a failed track record. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), additional CCS funding could easily be wasted without additional congressional oversight and accountability: “Absent such a mechanism, DOE may be at risk of expending significant funds on CCS demonstration projects with little likelihood of success.”4US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects.” GAO-22-105111. December 2021 at 23. Future CCS projects remain heavily dependent on revenue from tax credits and oil extraction rather than electricity sales.5Anchondo and Klump (2020).

Food & Water Watch reviewed large-scale CCS projects affiliated with the DOE’s joint development programs supported by the ARRA and which featured prominently in the DOE’s 2010 roadmap for carbon capture. This is not a comprehensive review of all announced CCS projects or even those that received federal funding, but rather a representative review of major projects. An MIT database of carbon capture projects through September 2016 recorded 15 canceled carbon capture projects, but that list is also not exhaustive; more than 30 coal plants announced in the mid-2000s considered carbon capture.6Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “CCS Project database: Power Plant Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage Projects.” Accessed June 2022. Available at http://sequestration.mit.edu/tools/projects/index_capture.html. Samuelsohn, Darren. “Billions over budget. Two years after deadline. What’s gone wrong for the ‘clean coal’ project that’s supposed to save an industry.” Politico. May 26, 2015.

Nonetheless, this is intended as a representative review of major projects.

According to the DOE’s 2010 roadmap, 10 projects with start dates between 2013 and 2016 were expected to make use of CCS; as of September 2022, only 2 of these facilities remain operational.7US Department of Energy (DOE). “DOE/NETL Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage RD&D Roadmap.” December 2010 at 14 and 15.

Carbon Capture Projects That Never Got Off The Ground

American Electric Power “Mountaineer”

American Electric Power (AEP) attempted to capture the CO2 emissions from a 235-megawatt coal electric power generator in West Virginia and inject the CO2 into geological storage near the facility. AEP withdrew from the project at the definition stage of development, after receiving over $16 million from the DOE. AEP claimed that the project would not be viable without additional federal support or legislation limiting emissions.8US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects.” GAO-22-105111. December 2021 at 7 and 8. Though the DOE was willing to shoulder half the $668 million cost of the project, AEP was unable to force ratepayers to cover the other half.9Wald, Matthew L. and John M. Broder. “Utility Shelves Ambitious Plan to Limit Carbon.” New York Times. July 13, 2011. If completed, the CCS-equipped unit would have represented 18 percent of the electric capacity of the power plant.10Folger, Peter. Congressional Research Service (CRS). “Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Research, Development, and Demonstration at the U.S. Department of Energy.” February 10, 2014 at 14.

Basin Electric “Antelope Valley”

Basin Electric proposed capturing CO2 from a 120-megawatt stream at the company’s coal power plant in North Dakota but withdrew before receiving funds because the project was unable to find a plausible plan despite $100 million in potential DOE funding.11US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects.” GAO-22-105111. December 2021 at 7 and 8. In addition to the DOE grant, the project was also guaranteed a $300 million loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).12“USDA approves loan for Basin Electric’s carbon capture project.” Power. January 21, 2009. The project was canceled fewer than 6 months after its inception, in part because internal cost estimates found that the project would be 30 percent more expensive than the DOE projected.13Folger, Peter. Congressional Research Service (CRS). “Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Research, Development, and Demonstration at the U.S. Department of Energy.” February 10, 2014 at 14; Calculation: (500-387)/387= 29.19

FutureGen 2.0 Power Plant & FutureGen 2.0 Pipeline and Storage

FutureGen originated as a Bush administration program that would spend $1 billion of public money to build a new 275-megawatt coal plant that incorporated CCS and hydrogen production at a single site in Mattoon, IL. This original vision didn’t receive the desired funding and by 2008 the DOE restructured the program away from a state-of-the-art living laboratory approach. In 2010, the DOE announced $1 billion in public funding to support yet another, different vision for FutureGen — located at an oil-fired unit in Meredosia, IL. More than a decade after the birth of the program, FutureGen remained early in development and faced rising costs, issues with project development, challenges retrofitting the plant and struggles meeting the 90 percent CO2 capture target.14Folger, Peter. Congressional Research Service (CRS). “Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Research, Development, and Demonstration at the U.S. Department of Energy.” February 10, 2014 at 18 to 20.

The final iteration of the FutureGen 2.0 program in Illinois aimed to capture CO2 and other emissions from a coal plant and transport the CO2 to a storage site 30 miles away. Following years of delay, the DOE withdrew support for the project in 2015. The power plant was unable to start construction because the plant failed to find adequate engineering and did not successfully find investors. The two components of the project (pipeline and power plant) only spent $83.8 and $116.6 million respectively from the DOE.15US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects.” GAO-22-105111. December 2021 at 9. Despite the virtually blank check provided to it, when the project was canceled most of the public money remained unspent.16Natter, Ari. “DOE suspends $1 Billion in FutureGen Funds, Killing Carbon Capture Demonstration Project.” Bloomberg. 2015.

Hydrogen Energy California

In 2007 a joint venture between Rio Tinto and BP was formed to build a new hydrogen CCS facility in Carson, California slated for operation in 2012.17Izundu, Uchenna. “BP, Rio Tinto launch Hydrogen Energy.” Oil & Gas Journal. May 21, 2007. A company called SCS energy bought out and reformulated the incomplete project in late 2011.18SCS Energy. [Press Release]. “SCS Energy Closes Deal to Acquire HECA Project in Kern County.” September 28, 2011. The revival of Hydrogen Energy California aimed to build and capture emissions from a small integrated gasification combined cycle coal plant for use in Enhanced Oil Recovery 4 miles from the power plant. After contributing $153.4 million, the DOE ended its agreement with Hydrogen Energy California, “after extensive budget and schedule overruns and repeatedly missed milestones.”19US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects.” GAO-22-105111. December 2021 at 7 and 10 Despite the challenges, the DOE lowered the private finance requirement for the project and made up the difference with federal funds in excess of the original agreement.20US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects.” GAO-22-105111. December 2021 at 19 and 20. This facility, which was never built, also qualified for $103.5 million in clean coal investment tax credits.21Folger, Peter and Molly F. Sherlock. Congressional Research Service (CRS). “Clean Coal Loan Guarantees and Tax Incentives: Issues in Brief.” R43690. August 19, 2014 at 8 and 9.

Southern Company Services “Plant Barry”

Southern Company Services withdrew before reaching a funding agreement with the DOE but proposed capturing the emissions from a 160-megawatt coal-powered generation unit located in Alabama.22US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects.” GAO-22-105111. December 2021 at 8. Two months after the DOE announced its willingness to provide $295 million for the $665 million project, Southern Company withdrew, claiming an inability to do financial due diligence in time.23Folger, Peter. Congressional Research Service (CRS). “Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Research, Development, and Demonstration at the U.S. Department of Energy.” February 10, 2014 at 14. Now, a decade after the original plans fell through, the DOE is offering yet more funding to support another attempted CCS project at the same site.24Noon, Chris. General Electric (GE). “Notes From The Underground: This GE-Led Team Is Looking To Write The Carbon Capture Playbook For Gas Plants.” February 15, 2022.

Summit Texas Clean Energy

Summit aimed to build a new 400-megawatt integrated combined gasification coal plant in Texas, capturing emissions equivalent to a 190-megawatt power plant to use for enhanced oil recovery in the Permian Basin. The DOE contributed $117.9 million but removed further support following a DOE OIG report recommending that the DOE suspend funding for the plant.25US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects.” GAO-22-105111. December 2021 at 7 and 9. The DOE violated the original cost-sharing agreement with the company and contributed nearly 8 times the funding that had been agreed to even though the plant was never built.26US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects.” GAO-22-105111. December 2021 at 19. In 2021, the DOE sued Summit to recover $13.8 million, alleging that Summit refused to fulfill its guarantees to the agency.27US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects.” GAO-22-105111. December 2021 at 10. The facility also received $324 million in clean coal investment tax credits.28Folger, Peter and Molly F. Sherlock. Congressional Research Service (CRS). “Clean Coal Loan Guarantees and Tax Incentives: Issues in Brief.” R43690. August 19, 2014 at 8 and 9.

Leucadia Lake Charles

The Leucadia Lake Charles project aimed to capture 4.5 million tons of CO2 from a new methanol (petrochemical input used to produce a range of products such as plastics, paints and furniture) plant in Louisiana. The project planned to use the CO2 for EOR and received $12.7 million from the DOE before the project was canceled in 2015.29US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects.” GAO-22-105111. December 2021 at 11 and 12. Unlike the other, operational industrial CCS projects, Leucadia aimed to selectively remove CO2 from a mixed gas stream, rather than purifying an already concentrated stream of CO2 from an industrial process.30Gollakota, Sai and Scott McDonald. “Commercial-Scale CCS project in Decatur, Illinois – Construction Status and Operational Plans for Demonstration.” Energy Procedia. Vol. 63. 2014 at 5987. The project was revived in 2015 by a former employee, promising to build a CCS facility at the same site. This new iteration secured $2 billion in conditional loan guarantees from the DOE.31Davis, Carolyn. “Lake Charles Methanol Secures DOE Backing For World’s First Carbon Capture, Petcoke Facility.” Natural Gas Intelligence. December 23, 2016. By early 2022, 15 years after the original proposals, the project remained nonexistent.32Schmidt, Theresa. “Opponents voice concerns about Lake Charles Methanol permit.” KPLC. February 25, 2022.

The Major Busts In Carbon Capture Projects

Southern Company “Kemper”

Southern Company’s notorious power plant project in Kemper, MS featured prominently in the DOE’s 2010 roadmap for its Clean Coal Power Initiative program. The plant aimed to capture 2 million metric tons of CO2 per year, 65 percent of its total emissions.33US Department of Energy (DOE). “DOE/NETL Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage RD&D Roadmap.” December 2010 at 14 and 15; Samuelsohn, Darren. “Billions over budget. Two years after deadline. What’s gone wrong for the ‘clean coal’ project that’s supposed to save an industry.” Politico. May 26, 2015. The project was awarded at least $680 million in federal grants and tax credits, including millions that Southern Company managed to redirect from another failed clean coal project in Orlando.34Samuelsohn, Darren. “Billions over budget. Two years after deadline. What’s gone wrong for the ‘clean coal’ project that’s supposed to save an industry.” Politico. May 26, 2015.

Set to open in 2013, Kemper pushed back its opening day for years.35Samuelsohn, Darren. “Billions over budget. Two years after deadline. What’s gone wrong for the ‘clean coal’ project that’s supposed to save an industry.” Politico. May 26, 2015. By 2015 the project’s overall budget had ballooned from $1.8 billion to $6.2 billion.36Samuelsohn, Darren. “Billions over budget. Two years after deadline. What’s gone wrong for the ‘clean coal’ project that’s supposed to save an industry.” Politico. May 26, 2015. Critical parts of the plant were torn down and rebuilt due to construction challenges, such as a misunderstanding of chemical reactions that led to the replacement of 1,500 feet of pipe.37Samuelsohn, Darren. “Billions over budget. Two years after deadline. What’s gone wrong for the ‘clean coal’ project that’s supposed to save an industry.” Politico. May 26, 2015. In 2015 Southern company claimed that the project was “98 percent or so complete”38Samuelsohn, Darren. “Billions over budget. Two years after deadline. What’s gone wrong for the ‘clean coal’ project that’s supposed to save an industry.” Politico. May 26, 2015. By 2017, regulators forced Kemper to abandon its clean coal plans completely.39Swartz, Kristi E. “The Kemper project just collapsed. What it signifies for CCS.” Energywire. October 26, 2021. Problems with the plant’s construction were raised early on by a whistleblower who ultimately sued Southern Company for retaliation, but Southern Company suppressed concerns and encouraged engineers to agree to unrealistic timelines.40Middleton, Christian. “Boondoggle In Kemper County: Powerful Ignored Red Flags Of ‘Clean Coal’ Flop.” Mississippi Free Press. December 16, 2021.

In 2021, Southern imploded the Kemper Project, which had just years earlier been celebrated as the country’s first commercial-scale carbon capture project at a coal plant.

Petra Nova

Until May 2020, Petra Nova was the only operational carbon capture and storage (CCS) power plant in the U.S. It has been put on a pedestal as the CCS power plant poster child, even though it closed after fewer than four years of operation.41Anchondo, Carlos and Edward Klump. “Petra Nova is closed: What it means for carbon capture.” Energywire. September 22, 2020. Petra Nova’s story reveals that there are serious economic challenges for CCS: The facility was unable to attain profitability despite generous government support, which could have totaled up to $360 million over the planned lifetime of the project. Although some claim the project was undermined primarily by low oil prices,42Lockwood, Toby. “Mothballed Petra Nova has already proved its worth.” IEA Clean Coal Centre. September 3, 2020. Petra Nova faced numerous technical setbacks, resulting in financial disappointments from the beginning. It’s also far from an environmental success story, considering that this coal-fired power plant used its carbon emissions to produce climate-polluting oil and missed its own carbon-capture targets.43Groom, Nichola. “Problems plagued U.S. CO2 capture project before shutdown: document.” Reuters. August 6, 2020.

Petra Nova had limited ambitions and a large price tag. When built, the W.A. Parish facility that’s home to Petra Nova had 3,700 megawatts (MW) of capacity, but the Petra Nova CCS project only captured the CO2 from a 240 MW unit at the plant.44Schwartz, John. “High-stakes test for carbon capture.” New York Times. January 3, 2017; Groom (2020). The CO2 was then compressed and transported from the plant through an 81-mile pipeline to be injected and used for oil recovery at the West Ranch oilfield.45U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). “W.A. Parish Post-Combustion CO2 Capture and Sequestration Demonstration Project.” DOE-PNPH-03311. Final Scientific/Technical Report. March 31, 2020 at 3. The plant itself and the cogeneration facility that powers it cost $600 million; the remaining $400 million covered the pipeline, the upgrades to the West Ranch oilfield, and administrative costs.46DOE (2020) at 3 and 6. (In total $4,200 per kilowatt of capacity retrofitted.47Smith, Rebecca. “CO2 project: Electricity firm to tap greenhouse gas for oil drilling; NRG Energy teams with JX Nippon Oil in carbon-capture pilot.” Wall Street Journal. July 15, 2014; EIA (2017). )

Proponents have focused on the fact that while fully operational, Petra Nova managed to capture over 90 percent of carbon emissions. However, the plant was often offline due to technological problems. For example, Petra Nova experienced leaks from its heat exchangers and its flue gas blower developed a vibration problem from a build-up of limestone used to scrub SO2. The CO2 utilization plan to transport captured carbon to West Ranch oilfields also faced challenges with partial or full shut-ins of the associated pipeline and West Ranch’s inability to receive the captured CO2.48DOE (2020) at 3, 4, 8 to 9 and 42.

Over three years of operation, Petra Nova’s components had 294 days’ worth of non-weather related, unplanned outages, leading to a lower overall capture rate. Petra Nova only captured 3,904,978 short tons of CO2 over a three-year period (an average of 1,301,659 short tons per year), 81 percent of its target. In fact, the carbon capture plant only operated at an estimated 69 percent of full functionality.49Ibid. at 4, 8 and 41. Capturing this carbon costs approximately $256 per short ton ($1 billion/3,904,978), excluding the operational costs of this plant. Had NRG Energy (Petra Nova’s parent company) instead invested in wind power, a similar emissions reduction would have cost $320 million, $680 million less than Petra Nova.50U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). State Electricity Profile. Texas 2016. January 25, 2018; Lazard. “Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis.” Version 10.0. December 2016 at 2.

Technological problems also contributed to financial disappointments that began almost as soon as the plant opened. Falling oil prices led NRG Energy to take a $140 million Petra Nova-related hit in 2016.51SEC. NRG Energy, Inc. Form 10-K. Fiscal year ending December 31, 2017 at 165. Then in late 2017, NRG Energy booked an additional $69 million loss after realizing CO2 injection would produce less oil than originally expected.52SEC. NRG Energy, Inc. Form 10-K. Fiscal year ending December 31, 2019 at 128. By the end of 2019, NRG Energy had reduced the value of its investment by $317 million, leading the company to renegotiate its arrangement with the joint venture.53SEC. NRG Energy, Inc.  Form 10-Q. Quarter ending September 30, 2019 at 35; SEC (December 31, 2019) at 72. After the first quarter of 2020, NRG Energy reduced Petra Nova’s value by another $18 million.54NRG Energy, Inc. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Form 10-Q. Quarter ending March 31, 2020 at 27.

While Petra Nova sought to reduce the costs of CCS, the project did not demonstrate substantial improvements to the economics of the technology.55DOE (2020) at 6. CCS is still so expensive that some future CCS projects plan to make more money from tax credits and oil extraction than they do from selling electricity.56Anchondo and Klump (2020). Additionally, there is no indication that Petra Nova helped reduce the energy needs of capture equipment. Petra Nova’s CCS system used 35 MW of electricity plus the steam from a 78 MW gas-fired generator which was built to meet the needs of the CCS facility.57DOE (2020) at 6 to 8. The “parasitic load” of the capture system was likely around 22 percent, a misleadingly low penalty as the natural gas plant powering the capture was more efficient than the coal plant.58Patel (2017).

Is This What Carbon Capture Success Looks Like?

Air Products and Chemicals

Air Products and Chemicals claims to have captured 1 million metric tons of CO2 per year from steam-methane reformers (industrial facilities that turn natural gas into hydrogen) in Texas, beginning operations in 2013. The DOE gave the project $284 million in funding. Captured CO2 is used for enhanced oil recovery.59US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects.” GAO-22-105111. December 2021 at 11; Air Products and Chemicals. “Large-scale Carbon Capture, Use and Storage.” Available at airproducts.com/company/innovation/carbon-capture. Accessed August 2022. To meet the additional energy requirements, Air Products uses a new 21-megawatt gas turbine requiring 270MMbtu/hr of fuel to capture 128.6 short tons per hour. The lifecycle emissions (including methane leakage) of the natural gas burned to capture this CO2 are responsible for more than one-quarter of the greenhouse gas impact of the captured CO2.60Busse, Amy et al. Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. “Demonstration of Carbon Capture and Sequestration of Steam Methane Reforming Process Gas Used for Large-Scale Hydrogen Production.” DE-FE0002381. March 2018 at 10, 18 and 47;
270mmbtu/128.6 short tons CO2 = 2.099MMBTU per short ton / 1,037(btu/cubic foot) = 0.002025 million cubic feet gas per short ton captured = 2024 cubic feet
.11616 million metric tons CO2eq per billion cubic feet NG produced & burned (precleared from emissions factors from supply side report) = .11616 metric tons per 1,000 cubic feet natural gas
.11616*2.024 = .2351 metric tons * 1.10231 = .2591

Additionally, the facility only captures process emissions, responsible for about two-thirds of the CO2 released on-site when producing hydrogen.61Longden, Thomas et al. “‘Clean’ hydrogen? – Comparing the emissions and costs of fossil fuel versus renewable electricity-based hydrogen.” Applied Energy. Vol. 306, No. 118145. January 2022 at 4. While Air Products captures approximately 1 million tons of CO2 per year, according to the EPA, the site was responsible for 2.4 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions in 2020.62Busse, Amy et al. Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. “Demonstration of Carbon Capture and Sequestration of Steam Methane Reforming Process Gas Used for Large-Scale Hydrogen Production.” DE-FE0002381. March 2018 at 34; Environmental Protection Agency. 2020 Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Large Facilities: Air Products Port Arthur Facility. FLIGHT tool. Available at ghgdata.epa.gov/ghgp/main.do. Accessed June 2022. Air Products does not publicly disclose the quantity of captured CO2 to the EPA, but the project is only claiming to capture 60 percent (1 million metric tons) of the 1.65 million metric tons of CO2 emitted from the hydrogen production.63Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2020 Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Large Facilities: Air Products Port Arthur Facility. FLIGHT tool. Available at ghgdata.epa.gov/ghgp/main.do. Accessed June 2022; Air Products and Chemicals. “Large-scale Carbon Capture, Use and Storage.” Available at airproducts.com/company/innovation/carbon-capture. Accessed August 2022. This suggests a capture rate far below the typically cited and targeted 90 percent, even ignoring the uncaptured natural gas emissions elsewhere at the facility.64Longden, Thomas et al. “‘Clean’ hydrogen? – Comparing the emissions and costs of fossil fuel versus renewable electricity-based hydrogen.” Applied Energy. Vol. 306, No. 118145. January 2022 at 4 and 5.

Achieving higher capture rates requires substantially more energy with corresponding costs and environmental impacts.65Longden, Thomas et al. “‘Clean’ hydrogen? – Comparing the emissions and costs of fossil fuel versus renewable electricity-based hydrogen.” Applied Energy. Vol. 306, No. 118145. January 2022 at 4. After accounting for methane leakage associated with hydrogen produced from fracked gas, CCS facilities that achieve high capture rates would still have significant greenhouse gas footprints.66Longden, Thomas et al. “‘Clean’ hydrogen? – Comparing the emissions and costs of fossil fuel versus renewable electricity-based hydrogen.” Applied Energy. Vol. 306, No. 118145. January 2022 at 1. Natural gas-sourced hydrogen produced using CCS may only have 9 to 12 percent lower emissions than hydrogen produced without CCS.67Howarth, Robert W. and Mark Z. Jacobson. “How green is blue hydrogen?” Energy Science & Engineering. Vol. 9, Iss. 10. October 2021 at 1676 and 1677. Burning hydrogen in place of natural gas, even when produced with CCS, actually has higher emissions than simply burning natural gas.68Howarth, Robert W. and Mark Z. Jacobson. “How green is blue hydrogen?” Energy Science & Engineering. Vol. 9, Iss. 10. October 2021 at 1676 and 1677. Fortunately, there’s no need for natural gas-fueled hydrogen plants. Evidence suggests that truly clean hydrogen, produced using renewable electricity, could soon become cheaper than hydrogen produced from fossil fuels both with and without CCS.69Longden, Thomas et al. “‘Clean’ hydrogen? – Comparing the emissions and costs of fossil fuel versus renewable electricity-based hydrogen.” Applied Energy. Vol. 306, No. 118145. January 2022 at 1.

Archer Daniels Midland Decatur Ethanol CCS

Archer Daniels Midland’s Decatur project, which received $141 million from the DOE and began operation in 2017, aims to sequester 1 million tons of CO2 per year from an ethanol plant in Decatur, Illinois.70US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects.” GAO-22-105111. December 2021 at 11. The capture system dehydrates and compresses a stream of 99 percent pure CO2 that is a byproduct of fermenting corn ethanol.71US Department of Energy (DOE). “Archer Daniels Midland Company: CO2 Capture from Biofuels Production and Storage into the Mt. Simon Sandstone.” FE0001547. April 2022 at 2. According to publicly available EPA data, ADM only sequesters 521,000 metric tons of CO2 annually, about half of what its permit allows and a slim fraction of the reported 4.4 million metric tons of total facility emissions.72Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “2020 GHG Summary Report: Archer Daniels Midland Co.” 2020 at 4 and 5; EPA. “Class VI Wells Permitted by EPA.” Available at https://www.epa.gov/uic/class-vi-wells-permitted-epa. Accessed August 2022.

ADM’s CCS facility only captures the emissions that are a byproduct of the fermentation process, leaving a wide range of uncaptured emissions from ethanol production.73Gollakota, Sai and Scott McDonald. “Commercial-Scale CCS project in Decatur, Illinois – Construction Status and Operational Plans for Demonstration.” Energy Procedia. Vol. 63. 2014 at 5988 and 5989. And this is an even smaller portion of the overall emissions74Edwards, Ryan W. J. and Michael A. Celia. “Infrastructure to enable deployment of carbon capture, utilization, and storage in the United States.” PNAS. Vol. 155, No. 38. 2018 at E8815 and E8816. from a fuel that, when burned, will emit CO2.75Dias de Oliveira, Marcelo E. et al. “Ethanol as Fuel: Energy, Carbon Dioxide Balances, and Ecological Footprint.” BioScience. Vol. 55, No. 7. July 2005 at 596. Based on survey averages of natural gas and electricity use by ethanol producers, Food & Water Watch estimates that ADM’s ethanol production at this facility requires 8.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 260 million kWh of electricity. Emissions from these sources are equal to 1.066 million metric tons per year and equal the emissions ADM plans to capture from the fermentation process.76Sherrard, Allan. “ADM starts commercial-scale CCS at Decatur ethanol plant.” BioEnergy International. April 20, 2017; Wu, May. Argonne National Laboratory. “Energy And Water Sustainability in The U.S. Biofuel Industry.” June 2019 at 11 to 13; US Energy Information Administration (EIA). “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS): What are Ccf, Mcf, Btu, and therms? How do I convert natural gas prices in dollars per Ccf or Mcf to dollars per Btu or therm?” Accessed June 2022. Available at https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=45&t=8; US Environmental Proection Agency (EPA). “Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.” Accessed June 2022. Available at https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator;
Note: 350 million gallons is a conservative estimate see RFA numbers at 375 million here: https://ethanolrfa.org/resources/ethanol-biorefinery-locations

Calculation 1. 350 million * 24,310 Btus natural gas/gallon = 8,508.5 billion BTUs per year/1,037 = 8.2 billion cubic feet natural gas * .11616 million metric tons CO2eq per billion cubic feet NG produced & burned (precleared from emissions factors from supply side report) = .953 million metric tons CO2eq annually (includes CH4 leaks)
Calculation 2. 350 million * .747 kwh = 261.45 million kWh =.113 million metric tons CO2 (EPA GHG calc)
Calculation 3. .953+.113 = 1.066 million metric tons.

In 2020, ADM admitted that the technology to capture these emissions doesn’t exist and speculated that capturing stack emissions is “likely 10 years out.”77Archer Daniels Midlands. “Carbon Reduction Feasibility Study.” March 30, 2020 at 10.

Production of ethanol only accounts for a fraction of overall emissions, fuel and feedstock transport, agricultural emissions and land use change all contribute to the life cycle greenhouse gas footprint.78Scully, Mellissa J. et al. “Carbon intensity of corn ethanol in the United States: state of the science.” Environmental Research Letters. Vol. 16. March 2021 at 14. Incorporating these emissions, ADM’s captured carbon accounts for only one-third of the life cycle emissions of the ethanol the facility produces, resulting in a fuel with a similar emissions impact to gasoline.79U.S. DOE. “Alternative Fuels Data Center Fuel Properties Comparison.” January 2021 at 1; Sherrard, Allan. “ADM starts commercial-scale CCS at Decatur ethanol plant.” I April 20, 2017; Lark, Tyler J. et al. “Environmental outcomes of the US Renewable Fuel Standard.” PNAS. Vol. 119 No. 9. February 2022 at 1;
Calculation 1. 350 million gallons * (76,330btu/gallon * 0.001055058 megajoules per btu = 80.53257714Mj/gallon) 80.5 MJ/gallon(estimate) =28,186 million MJ *115.7 grams/MJ (ethanol emissions from lark) 3261166.7 million grams = 3,261 million kg = 3.261 million metric tons.

Accounting for land use changes, ethanol has life cycle emissions up to 24 percent higher than fossil fuel-derived gasoline.80Lark, Tyler J. et al. “Environmental outcomes of the US Renewable Fuel Standard.” PNAS. Vol. 119 No. 9. February 2022 at 1. Ethanol also increases the overall supply of gasoline available to burn, leading to increased consumption and leaving oil that can still be burned later.81Hill, Jason et al. “Climate consequences of low-carbon fuels: The United States Renewable Fuel Standard.” Energy Policy. Vol. 97. August 2016 at 351 and 352.

Managing CO2 also requires energy with corresponding, additional emissions.82Wu, May. Argonne National Laboratory. “Energy And Water Sustainability in The U.S. Biofuel Industry.” June 2019 at 2. The cooling and compression of the CO2 use electricity (with uncaptured emissions) and the chemical used for dehydration is regenerated by boiling with natural gas, another source of emissions.83Gollakota, Sai and Scott McDonald. “Commercial-Scale CCS project in Decatur, Illinois – Construction Status and Operational Plans for Demonstration.” Energy Procedia. Vol. 63. 2014 at 5988 and 5989. Carbon capture proponents often point to this plant as proof of carbon capture’s broader feasibility.84Archer Daniels Midland Company. [Press Release]. “ADM Begins Operations for Second Carbon Capture and Storage Project.” April 7, 2017. However, ethanol fermentation emits a very concentrated stream of CO2, making it substantially easier and cheaper to scrub than emissions from power plants or other industrial sources.85Edwards, Ryan W. J. and Michael A. Celia. “Infrastructure to enable deployment of carbon capture, utilization, and storage in the United States.” PNAS. Vol. 155, No. 38. 2018 at E8815 and E8816.

What These 11 Case Studies Tell Us

Carbon capture cannot be the centerpiece of any serious climate plan. Its track record makes it appear to be a handout to fossil fuel corporations, publicly financing their attempts to keep their harmful product viable. The truth is we need to move to 100% renewable energy by 2030, and no half-baked schemes are going to replace that course of action. No matter how inconvenient that is to the oil and gas industry, it’s a fact the rest of us need to keep in sight.

Your friends need to see the facts about CCS.

Endnotes[+]

How Wall Street’s Bets Are Increasing the Price of Food

Categories

PDFFood System

Financial speculation played a significant role in driving up the price of food during the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and is doing the same today. Many agricultural commodities reached record highs in 2022 accompanied by significant increases in speculative financial activity. This is no coincidence.

Speculation on commodities exacerbates price volatility and distorts prices. Due to regulatory loopholes and the powerful financial lobby, it is now easier than ever for banks and other financial institutions to overwhelm farmers and commercial commodity purchasers with trillions of dollars’ worth of unaccountable speculation, all in search of short-term profit. This harms farmers and consumers, especially those in developing countries.

Oil Profits Grow at the Expense of Jobs, Consumers, and the Environment

Categories

PDFClimate and Energy

Oil and gas industry proponents claim that increased production is necessary to create and sustain jobs and combat rising gas prices at the pump. The truth is that oil and gas are cyclical industries prone to boom-and-bust cycles. They bring influxes of activity but leave behind a poisonous environment and a toxic legacy when the money leaves. While the oil and gas industry uses promises of employment to gain political leverage, increased production does
not actually guarantee more jobs. The 2020 crash shows that workers and communities bear the brunt of these busts, and 2021 shows that even when production returns, jobs continue to be cut.

Oil and Gas Jobs Decline While Production and Profits Grow

While oil and gas production recovered in 2021, U.S. oil and gas employment fell 7 percent from 2020’s decade-low to 504,000, down 37 percent from the 2014 peak. Yet over the same period, oil and gas production rose 33 percent. Oil and gas production in 2021 was associated with only 47 percent as many jobs as it was in 2014. For example, in 2021, each job in the oil and gas industry was associated with the equivalent of 22,894 barrels of oil, gas, and natural gas liquids
production, compared to 10,777 barrels per job in 2014.

The jobs that remain in the oil and gas industry are increasingly hard to access, dangerous, and insufficiently compensated. The on-site jobs of the past are being replaced by technology, relying on drones and remote steering from central control facilities, often miles away from the drill site. These new jobs often require additional qualifications and technical experience. Oil and gas corporations frequently complain that workers are not skilled enough. By early 2022, oil and gas workers, fed up with dangerous or unpleasant working conditions and wages below pre-pandemic levels, quit at rates not seen since before the pandemic.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Fossil Fuels’ Billion-Dollar Bailout

Categories

PDFClimate and Energy

Carbon capture and sequestration is a term you’ll be hearing a lot in the near future.

Fossil fuel corporations are asking for and receiving billions in federal
support for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) in lieu of shutting down their highly profitable dirty operations. Without hard limits on fossil fuel use, these dirty facilities could operate for their economic and technical lifetimes, pushing us over the brink of climate chaos. CCS technologies, repurposed from earlier promises of “clean coal,” offer no real hope of avoiding climate chaos but allow the same companies responsible for climate change to make billions building unproven and ineffective infrastructure.

What’s The Buzz On Pollinators?

Categories

PDFFood SystemClimate and Energy

Why are pollinators so important? Our food security is intrinsically tied to the lives of hundreds of thousands of insects and animals.

How Big Ag & Aging Infrastructure Are Blighting Our Beaches

Categories

Clean Water

by Michael Doerrer

For many families, summer means time at the beach! Streams, rivers, lakes and oceans are huge recreational draws — and they should be. They’re a natural resource we should all be able to enjoy. But broken wastewater infrastructure and giant corporations are bringing on summertime sadness. Beach closings are on the rise.

From Bathrooms to Beaches

We all know sewage spills hurt the environment. They pollute rivers, streams and other waters. Their toxins and pathogens endanger our health. Toxic overflows destroy aquatic ecosystems, kill fish and close shellfish harvesting areas. And as we try to enjoy the summer season, sewage spills have made many waters too polluted to swim, boat or fish in. Over the last five years, about a third of U.S. beaches have had at least one advisory or closing each year. 

Aging and poorly designed sewage and stormwater systems lead to closures. Sewer spills led to nearly 15% of beach closing and advisories with known causes. Many more with unknown causes were certainly related to wastewater events.

Big Ag’s Waste Coming Ashore

Pollution from industrial agriculture and other sources leaves two-thirds of U.S. estuary waters at greater risk for harmful algal blooms. And that means more unhealthy and even dangerous waters and beaches. For example, less than a third of the shoreline along the Great Lakes is in good biological condition. A third is in fair or poor condition.

Agricultural pollution wreaks havoc on all types of water bodies and waterways. More than 50% of rivers and streams, 40% of lakes and 20% of coasts are polluted with excess nutrients that cause algal growth and fish kills. On top of that, more than 70% of wetlands have lost plant life, stressing the ecosystems there.

How You Can Help Protect Our Beaches

The handful of giant multinational corporations that control U.S. agriculture care more about profit than human health. They brazenly pollute, while would-be government regulators do little to stop them. 

But we can step in to defend our beaches. We can demand funding to improve wastewater systems and address stormwater. And we can stand up for commonsense policies and legislation like the WATER Act to help save our water and our beaches. 

Food & Water Watch is fighting to spread the word about this landmark legislation — the bill already has more than 100 co-sponsors in Congress! It’s the best way to start restoring federal support for water protections. At the same time, we’re standing up to the corporate polluters ruining our beaches and waterways.

This summer, as millions of us head for the sand, let’s remember that our waterways need our help. Our beaches — and our summertime traditions — depend on our action. 

Help save our shores. Tell Congress to support the WATER Act!

Against All Odds: A Benefit to Protect Our Planet

Categories

Climate and Energy

On September 29, Food & Water Watch will host our first-ever hybrid annual benefit.

Corporations may have the money, but we have the power of people on our side. We’ve proven that against all odds, when we work together, we can win our fights for safe food, clean water and a livable climate for all!

Register today to join us for Against All Odds on September 29 to celebrate the progress we’ve made and mobilize for the future alongside hundreds of activists.

About the Event

Against All Odds is a hybrid event. You can choose to join us virtually for a live-streamed program, or you can join us in person in New York City for a reception with fellow activists. The event — whether virtual or in person — will feature stories of impact, calls to action, as well as a special recognition for our Honorees. Guest speakers will be announced soon! 

Virtual Program

Thursday, September 29, 2022 | 8-9 pm ET (5-6pm PT)
All registrants will receive an access link to join. 

New York City Reception

Thursday, September 29, 2022 | 7-9 pm ET
The Century Association – food, drinks and celebration on the terrace!
7 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036


The program will feature:

Elisa Gambino

Elisa Gambino is a journalist and filmmaker who spent her early career chronicling world events for CNN, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Gulf War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the wars in Bosnia and conflict in Somalia. Her work in Somalia was recognized with a News and Documentary Emmy Award. Since founding One Production Place in 2001, Elisa has directed award-winning shorts that examine health equity, climate change, and racial justice. In 2020, Elisa was an executive producer for A Love Song for Latasha which was nominated for an Academy Award in the Documentary Short category. She also directed Welcome to Pine Lake in 2020 and Wasteland in 2022, which draws important links between factory farms, our waste and the human right to clean water and sanitation.

Bill Gee and Sue Crothers

Bill Gee and Sue Crothers are lifelong environmental activists. Together, they built one of the first sustainably designed homes in Illinois and founded the Manaaki Foundation, which supports environmental and social justice causes. Sue is a founding member of the One Earth Film Festival and Director of the One Earth Young Filmmakers Contest. Bill, as former co-owner of a commercial bakery (and a beekeeper!), is passionate about building a sustainable food system and is a member of Food & Water Watch’s Advisory Council.


Annual Benefit: Against All Odds

Ticket Information

Join us virtually from the comfort of your home, or join us in New York City for a reception. Whichever you choose, we invite you to celebrate the progress we’ve made together for safe food, clean water and a livable climate for all. 

View ticket and sponsorship options for each below. Each level comes with unique perks!

| Join Us Virtually

Tickets


ALLY | $50 (fully tax-deductible)
Details
  • Link to join virtual event live on September 29, 2022
  • Membership in Food & Water Watch, includes newsletter.

DEFENDER | $150 ($125 tax-deductible)
Details
  • All Ally benefits, plus:
  • A special Food & Water Watch branded t-shirt 
  • Access to a special pre-event virtual reception to celebrate with fellow guests 
  • Listing on event materials.

ACTIVIST | $500 ($465 tax-deductible)
Details
  • All Defender benefits, plus:
  • A branded protest sign to customize for your next rally.

Sponsorships


COMMITTEE | $1,000 ($930 tax-deductible)
Details
  • Listing on event materials 
  • A hand-picked bottle of wine and a Food & Water Watch branded t-shirt shipped to you for the event
  • Access to a special pre-event virtual reception to celebrate with fellow guests 
  • Champions Circle Membership in Food & Water Watch, includes special updates and invites to events.
  • Helps fund organizing software tools.

CHAIR | $2,500 ($2,430 tax-deductible)
Details
  • All Committee benefits, plus: 
  • Special access link for you to share with family and friends
  • Leaders Circle Membership in Food & Water Watch, includes special updates, invites to events, access to leadership, and a copy of the Book of the Year 
  • Helps fund training for new Food & Water Volunteer Network volunteers.

BENEFACTOR | $5,000 ($4,930 tax-deductible)
Details
  • All Chair benefits, plus:
  • Special recognition during the event
  • Helps fund organizing materials for rallies, canvassing and trainings.

LEAD SPONSOR | $10,000 ($9,930 tax-deductible)
Details
  • All Benefactor benefits, plus:
  • Opportunity to introduce a guest speaker at the event
  • Helps fund cutting-edge research on food, water and climate issues. 

| Join Us in New York City

All tickets include food and drinks at the reception on the Century Association terrace.

Tickets


DEFENDER – 1 ticket to in-person event | $150 ($70 tax-deductible)
Details
  • Membership in Food & Water Watch, includes newsletter.

CAMPAIGNER – 1 ticket to in-person event | $250 ($170 tax-deductible)
Details
  • Membership in Food & Water Watch, includes newsletter.

ACTIVIST – 2 tickets to in-person event | $500 ($340 tax-deductible)
Details
  • Membership in Food & Water Watch, includes newsletter.

Sponsorships


COMMITTEE – 2 tickets to in-person event | $1,000 ($840 tax-deductible)
Details
  • Champions Membership in Food & Water Watch, includes special updates and invites to events
  • Listing on event materials 
  • Helps fund organizing software tools.

CHAIR – 2 tickets to in-person event | $2,500 ($2,340 tax-deductible)
Details
  • All Committee benefits, plus:
  • Leaders Circle Membership in Food & Water Watch, includes special updates, invites to events, access to leadership, and a copy of the Book of the Year 
  • Helps fund training for new Food & Water Volunteer Network volunteers.

BENEFACTOR – 4 tickets to in-person event | $5,000 ($4,680 tax-deductible)
Details
  • All Chair benefits, plus: 
  • Reserved high top table for reception and seating for formal program
  • Special recognition during the event
  • Helps fund organizing materials for rallies, canvassing and trainings.

LEAD SPONSOR – 6 tickets to in-person event | $10,000 ($9,480 tax-deductible)
Details
  • All Benefactor benefits, plus: 
  • Celebratory bottle of wine for you and your guests
  • Opportunity to introduce a guest speaker at the event or make welcome remarks to kick off the night! 
  • Helps fund cutting-edge research on food, water and climate issues.

Highlights from our 2021 Virtual Conference & Benefit

We enjoyed an incredible day of learning and community building with 12 sessions and hands-on trainings, incredible speakers like our keynote Amy Goodman and special guests like Mark Ruffalo, Ed Begley, Jr., members of Congress and more! Watch last year’s highlights, and register today to join us on September 29! 


Become a Sponsor

Food & Water Watch doesn’t take corporate donations, so all our work is made possible by the generous support of individuals like you. By sponsoring the event, you’re providing funding to enhance our organizers’ ability to mobilize at the local, state and national level to stop fossil fuel projects, keep water sources clean and accessible to the public, shut down factory farms — and fight for legislation that will protect our food, water and climate.

The Hog Bosses: Fact Sheet

Categories

PDFFood System

The corporate hog takeover of Iowa’s rural landscape has wreaked severe economic and environmental damage. Iowa lost nearly 90 percent of its hog farms between 1982 and 2017, as factory farms squeezed out smaller, family-scale operations. Farmers are earning less (in today’s dollars) per pound of pork produced, while processors and retailers capture more profit. Meanwhile, factory hog farms pollute Iowa’s waterways and contribute to climate change.

Oregon’s Mega-Dairies, Mega-Pollution and Mega-Climate Consequences

Categories

PDFFood SystemClimate and Energy

The numerous problems that mega-dairies create and the incalculable damage that they inflict on Oregon are not going away without strong action from the state’s leaders. Touting factory farm gas as a solution is only entrenching pollution among frontline communities. Oregon’s legislature must take strong action to protect our air, water and health, beginning with a moratorium on new and expanding mega-dairies.

Food & Water Watch recommends that Oregon:
• Enact an immediate moratorium on new mega-dairies, and on the expansion of existing ones;
• Adopt regulations requiring mega-dairies to reduce their emissions of methane and other harmful air pollutants; and
• Reject the incentivizing of air pollution through factory farm gas and focus on real solutions to climate change like wind and solar.

Lab Meat Won’t End Factory Farms — But Could Entrench Them

Categories

PDFFood System

Can next-generation alternatives like lab meat actually replace factory farms, as some supporters boldly claim?

Consumers would first need to accept these novel products. They must appeal to people who enjoy meat and be comparable in taste and cost. This is a tall order. Scaling up cultured meat requires expensive facilities and equipment and sterile environments — such as those used in the biopharmaceutical industry. Moreover, consumers are increasingly interested in not just sustainability but nutrition; they are seeking fresh, minimally processed foods with short
ingredient lists. Cultured and plant-based meats are
neither.

Second, even if lab meat gains widespread acceptance, there is no guarantee that it will replace consumption of farmed meat, which is deeply embedded in Western culture. One study found that even if price and taste were equal, most consumers would still choose a beef burger over a cultured or plant-based one. This might help explain why fast food sales of plant-based alternatives are flatlining and chains are dialing back their offerings; as the novelty wears off, customers are choosing the familiar. Meanwhile, U.S. per capita meat consumption
reached an all-time high in 2020. Lab meat seems
to be complementing — not replacing — meat in
people’s diets.

Finally, factory farms are baked into the U.S. food system through various federal policies and economic incentive. This dooms any market-based solution from the very start. For instance, U.S. meat production already outstrips domestic demand, and surpluses
are exported. So even if everyone in the United States switched to lab meat, Big Ag would continue to produce meat. Likewise, reducing or eliminating meat consumption will not affect incentives to stick with the current ecologically depleting farming systems that prop up factory farms, such as the overproduction of commodity crops on monocultures. Both cultured and plant-based meat rely on many of the same commodities used in livestock feed and may further entrench these systems.

The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies: The Hog Bosses

REPORT - May 2022

What You’ll Learn From This Report

  • 1: Introduction
  • 2: The Rise of The Hog Bosses
    • Iowa becomes ground zero for factory hog farms
  • 3: Hog Farms Did Not Bring Prosperity to Rural Iowa
    • Counties with the most factory farm development score lower on numerous economic indicators
  • 4: The Factory Farm Industry Is Driving Climate Change
    • We need to support diverse family-scale farms
  • 5: Conclusion and Recommendations
    • We cannot solve this crisis without combating corporate power
  • 6: Methodology

Part 1:

Introduction

In December 2019, U.S. hog slaughterhouses were operating at nearly 100 percent capacity. The system was functioning as designed; corporations profit by maximizing output and contracting with large operations to ensure a steady stream of hogs.1 But the system buckled just a few months later as the United States entered pandemic lockdown. Plummeting foodservice demand and shuttered slaughterhouses created backlogs of hogs that depressed prices and forced some farmers to euthanize their animals. Meanwhile, meat disappeared from store shelves, while processors used their reserves to export record amounts of meat abroad.

We can place some blame on the pandemic for a bad year in farm country. But the reality is that the current centralized, corporate-controlled food system was not built for resiliency, or even to support family-scale farms. Nowhere is this more evident than in Iowa’s factory hog industry. This second issue brief in our ongoing series on the Economic Cost of Food Monopolies explores how massive growth in hog production has failed to bring economic prosperity to Iowa’s rural communities.

Food & Water Watch analyzed the economic welfare of Iowa counties with the most hogs sold and the largest hog farms, from 1982 to 2017. We found that:

  • Iowa lost nearly 90 percent of its hog farms from 1982 to 2017, as rapid factory hog expansion drove out smaller, family-scale farms.
  • Overproduction — and growing corporate consolidation — pushed down the real price of hogs. Today’s farmers earn $2 less per pound of hog produced compared to 1982, while the retail price fell only $1; slaughterhouses, processors and retailers are capturing the other $1.
  • Counties that sold the most hogs and those with the largest farms suffered declines across several economic indicators — including real median household income and total wage jobs — over roughly the same time period. These counties also experienced significant population decline — twice the rate of Iowa’s more rural counties.
  • The factory farm industry depends on the overproduction of feed grain like corn and soybeans. Yet grain farmers also experienced significant real price drops between 1982 and 2017 — 52 and 39 percent per bushel, respectively, for corn and soybeans. Iowa also lost more than 40 percent of its corn and soybean farms as production shifted to the largest operations.

As we continue to manage the pandemic, we need to fundamentally transform the way we produce and process food, especially in animal agriculture. Fortunately, the path forward is clear. It starts by banning new and expanding factory farms.a We must also restore supply management in upcoming Farm Bills and improve antitrust oversight and enforcement. Only then can we build a food system that achieves both economic and climate stability.

aWe define “factory farms” as operations meeting the following size categories: 500 or more beef cattle (on feed), 500 or more dairy cows, 1,000 or more hogs, 500,000 or more broiler chickens sold annually, and 100,000 or more egg-laying hens. These are based off of inventory categories used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture and roughly align with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of a medium-sized concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). 

Part 2:

The Rise of The Hog Bosses

Iowa becomes ground zero for factory hog farms

Pig farm. Photo credit: CC-BY-2.0 / Farm Watch, Flickr

Up until the late 20th century, most hogs were raised on smaller, diversified operations. It was often cheaper to grow feed onsite, thereby limiting the number of hogs that a single farm could raise.2 But significant changes in U.S. farm policy and corporate power transformed the way we grow crops and raise livestock.

The U.S. government once had a robust food supply management system that prevented overproduction, a key contributor to low crop prices. New Deal farm policies encouraged farmers to voluntarily cut back production in exchange for price supports. These programs provided living wages to farmers of certain commodities and backgrounds, for much of the 20th century.3

But as U.S. antitrust enforcement eroded and agribusinesses amassed power, corporations lobbied to dismantle these systems to expand global commodity trading. The U.S. government embraced free trade, aiming to increase domestic production and to use expanding export markets to soak up excess commodities. In the 1970s, the agriculture secretary famously directed farmers to “plant fencerow to fencerow.” Many took heed, taking out loans to expand their operations.4

Harvesting crops in the 1970s.

But this all came crashing down in the 1980s. The export market proved volatile and grain prices crashed, leaving farmers with huge debt that they could not repay. Thousands of farms were foreclosed. Those that remained looked to new production models, including contract hog production, to save the farm.5

The death of supply management created a glut of low-priced grain, which agribusinesses purchased and processed into cheap livestock feed. It was now cheaper for farmers to purchase feed offsite and raise their livestock in confinement.6 And Iowa, with its ready supply of feed input crops like corn and soybeans,7 became ground zero for factory hog expansion.

More hogs, fewer farms

Cheap feed is one part of the equation that fueled rapid factory farm growth. Another is growing corporate consolidation within the meat slaughtering and processing industry. In 1980, the top four pork processors slaughtered one out of every three U.S. hogs. Over the past 40 years, their market share has doubled (Figure 1).8 Concentration at the local level can be even more extreme. For instance, between 2004 and 2011, the top four firms slaughtered 9 out of 10 Iowa hogs.9

Extreme market power gives corporations greater leverage to dictate farm prices and practices. Until the early 1990s, most hogs were sold in “spot markets” like live auctions, where multiple buyers competed to purchase a farmer’s hogs. Iowa alone had around 200 such facilities.10 Competition among buyers helped secure fair prices for farmers.11

But corporate consolidation reduced the number of buyers vying for Iowa’s hogs. Those that remained put pressure on the industry to expand their herd sizes, preferring to bargain with a few very large farms rather than numerous family-scale ones. Some buyers use production contracts, paying farmers to raise hogs owned by the processor — a near-universal practice in the broiler chicken industry. Marketing contracts, however, are more common in the hog industry, where farmers agree to deliver a set number of hogs at a future date. In both cases, farmers swap independence for a guaranteed income/buyer.12

In 1993, more than 80 percent of all hogs sold nationally were negotiated on the spot market. Two decades later, this had fallen to as low as 3 percent. Such a “thin” hog market prevents fair pricing and contributes to market volatility. This impacts farmers selling under marketing contracts as well, since the prices they receive are often tied to the spot market.13

A market dominated overwhelmingly by marketing contracts and with few negotiated hogs gives greater leverage to processing corporations. It is also open to manipulation. Pork processors have abused the system in various ways; one example is flooding the auction floor with their own hogs, driving down the spot market price just as a marketing contract is delivered.14

Corporate takeover of the hog industry has provided windfall profits to processing companies, but has gutted farm income.15 Nationally, farmers today are earning $2 less per pound of pork than in 1982 (adjusted for inflation). That’s a third of the value earned in 1982. But we are paying only around $1 less per pound at the grocery checkout. Pork processors and retailers are capturing the other dollar (Figure 2).16 In fact, the average net returns among Iowa’s wean-to-finish hog operations were negative for nearly half the years between 2004 and 2019.17

Part 3:

Hog Farms Did Not Bring Prosperity to Rural Iowa

Counties with the most factory farm development score lower on numerous economic indicators

Main Street in Readlyn, Iowa. Photo credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 / Orange Suede Sofa, Wikimedia Commons

Iowa’s farming landscape looks significantly different today than just a couple of decades ago. In 2017, Iowa sold 2.5 times as many hogs as in 1982. And the average number sold per farm each year has swelled nearly 20-fold, to 9,600 hogs per farm. Today, one out of every four U.S. hogs comes from Iowa. Yet the state lost almost 90 percent of its hog farms over this same period (Figure 3).

Moreover, our findings indicate that pork processors are capturing greater shares of profits, while farmers are feeling the pinch. In fact, the farmer’s share per pound of pork sold dropped two-thirds between 1982 and 2017 (adjusted for inflation). This suggests that the factory farm industry’s takeover of Iowa is not benefiting most farmers or rural communities. Instead, it shifts economic output from small, family-scale operations to a handful of very large operations — and ultimately to the pork processing corporations.

The study

A 2012 Food & Water Watch economic analysis,18 reviewed by the Agricultural Policy Analysis Center (APAC) at the University of Tennessee, is a valuable case study in what happens when governments endorse and enable factory farm growth. From 1982 to 2007, as factory farms mushroomed across the Iowa landscape, the value per hog sold to the Iowa economy actually declined. Moreover, the gains from hog sales are more unevenly distributed today, with fewer (but much larger) farms across virtually every Iowa county. This concentrates wealth among the largest farms, which in turn tend to make fewer local purchases than their smaller counterparts. This has cascading effects across the entire economy.

The 2012 study also compared the economic and social well-being of counties with the most hog sales and the largest farms to counties with fewer sales and smaller farms. We updated many of these comparisons using data from the 2012 and 2017 Censuses of Agriculture, while adding a few more. (For details, see the Methodology section.) The results suggest that failure to stop factory farm expansion and eliminate subsidies to the industry is wreaking havoc on Iowa’s farm economies. The results also counter the industry narrative that pork processors are building wealth and jobs in rural communities.

More hogs, less income

The National Pork Producers Council19 boasts that the U.S. pork industry supports over $22 billion in personal income.b We found that on a per capita basis, personal income increased in each Iowa county over the study period of 1982 to 2017. There were not significant differences in growth rates between counties with high hog sales and large farms, and those with fewer sales and smaller farms. The same is true even when comparing urban to rural counties.

However, measuring total personal income (not accounting for population) tells a different story. Iowa’s top hog-producing counties saw real total personal income fall roughly 8 percent from 1982 to 2017. In contrast, it ballooned 181 and 142 percent, respectively, among counties that sold fewer hogs and have smaller farms. Even Iowa’s more rural counties saw a 41 percent growth in real total personal income.

In other words, significant population losses (detailed below) went hand-in-hand with the drop in total personal income in counties with high hog sales and large farms. Moreover, per capita income measurements can mask economic inequality, especially when a few large earners bring up the county average. Median household income can help account for this by finding the middle point among all households in a sample.20

For instance, the real median household income among counties with high hog sales and large farms was between 6 and 7 percent less in 2017 than in 1979 (Figure 4). In contrast, it increased slightly within counties with fewer sales and smaller farms. Real median household income even increased modestly among Iowa’s rural counties. These findings suggest that the income benefits of factory hog production are not evenly shared across households living in counties with the most hog production — even though these counties collectively increased their hog production three-fold.

Job losses both on and off the farm

One of the most compelling findings of this report relates to employment. The factory farm industry likes to claim that its industrial model creates jobs — and to stoke fears about job losses to oppose regulation.21 However, the data do not support this. Instead, the rise of Iowa’s factory farms coincided with significant job losses both on and off the farm.

Statewide, total farm employment dropped 44 percent between 1982 and 2017. Every single Iowa county experienced double-digit declines in farm jobs. However, job losses among the top hog-producing counties exceeded the state average — and were even slightly higher than among rural counties overall (Figure 5).

Our previous report came to a similar conclusion: Farm size matters more than total hog output when it comes to job creation. Other studies echo this conclusion, including a 2021 analysis comparing job creation between Iowa’s conventional hog farms and those practicing pasture-based farming. (The average pasture-based farm in the study sells 600 hogs per year, compared to the state average of 9,600). The economic analysis found that the pasture-based farms created more than three times as many jobs per 100,000 hogs marketed compared to conventional farms. They also contributed more indirect and induced jobs.22

Iowa counties with high hog production lost jobs in other industries as well, including manufacturing and retail, whereas counties with low hog production and small farms gained jobs. When looking at all wage jobs, top hog-producing counties saw 30 percent declines from 1982 to 2017. Those counties selling fewer hogs and with smaller farms saw 131 percent and 102 percent growth in total wage jobs, respectively (Figure 6) — outstripping population growth rates by roughly 2:1. Even rural counties saw a 12 percent growth in jobs over the study period.

Simply put, the factory farm model is both anti-farm (pushing family-scale farms to foreclosure) and anti-job (reducing employment both on and off the farm).

Business and retail

Factory farms have cascading impacts on all sectors of the local economy. This is due in part to the different purchasing patterns between small and large farms. For instance, Iowa’s average large wean-to-finish operation purchases only $1 out of every $3 of inputs locally.23 Numerous economic analyses underscore the importance of small farms to local economies; some studies have concluded that smaller farms make more local purchases than larger farms, thereby supporting local retail and contributing to the “multiplier effect” that occurs when wealth is circulated in a local economy.24 Another study found that small, family-scale hog production models shift more profits from corporations to farmers, and induce more household spending among affected workers and farm owners.25

Our study aligns with these analyses. While Iowa experienced an estimated 2 percent decline in total retail businesses between 1982 and 2017, the counties with high hog sales and large farms saw extreme declines — 40 percent and 33 percent, respectively (Figure 7). This decline was even more severe than in rural counties. Counties with low hog sales and small farms, in contrast, saw double-digit growth in retail businesses.

Similarly, while Iowa lost nearly 60 percent of its grocery stores from 1982 to 2016,c losses among counties with high hog sales and large farms were even more stark —75 and 70 percent losses, respectively. This is even greater than losses in the most rural counties. In contrast, losses among low hog sales and small hog farm counties were lower than the state average.

The only business categories considered in this report that had positive growth among high hog-producing counties were meat slaughter and processing plants. However, growth still trailed that of the state as a whole. In fact, most of the growth in meat slaughter and processing facilities occurred in counties with low hog sales and small farms, as well as in rural counties. This could be due to a number of factors, including proximity to the workforces, transportation infrastructure and sewage treatment systems necessary to run slaughter facilities. It is also worth noting that more than a quarter of all hogs raised in Iowa are slaughtered across state lines.26

Before we commend the factory hog industry for a growth in livestock slaughterhouse and processing jobs, it is clear that the quality of these jobs has declined significantly over the past few decades. As meatpacking conglomerates rose in power, working conditions at their plants deteriorated; union representation declined, wages were cut, and conditions became more dangerous.27 In fact, today’s slaughterhouse workers suffer twice the rate of reported injuries and illnesses compared to the manufacturing sector as a whole.28 The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the willingness of pork corporations to put profit ahead of worker health and wellbeing, as corporations fought to keep plants open despite outbreaks that were killing workers.29

Population losses and net migration

Iowa’s total population grew 8 percent from 1982 to 2017. However, counties with high hog sales and large farms saw their populations decrease by 44 percent and 36 percent, respectively. In contrast, the populations of counties with low hog sales and small hog farms boomed 73 percent and 47 percent, respectively. These differences cannot be chalked up to rural and urban divides alone; population loss in rural counties was 18 percent — at least half as much as in counties with high hog sales and large farms.

Additionally, counties with high hog sales and large farms experienced greater rates of net migration compared to counties with low hog sales and small farms. We cannot make sweeping claims about why populations are leaving these counties based on numbers alone. Job losses, decline of rural services, and nuisance and public health concerns from nearby factory farms could all play a role and deserve greater attention. This negative net migration can have cascading effects on communities, including reduced retail demand and declining tax bases.30

bPersonal income includes all wages, employer-provided benefits, rental property, government benefits, and interest and dividends. It excludes capital gains from stocks. See U.S. Department of Commerce. Bureau of Economic Analysis. “Income & Saving.” Available at https://www.bea.gov/resources/learning-center/what-to-know-income-saving. Accessed December 2021 and on file with Food & Water Watch.

cEstimate uses the U.S. Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns data, which changed reporting in the 2017 report year to no longer include data cells with three or fewer businesses. We used 2016 data instead to have a more accurate comparison across the years.

Part 4:

The Factory Farm Industry Is Driving Climate Change

We need to support diverse family-scale farms

Derecho damage seen on a grain bin in Jackson County, Iowa Photo Credit: CC BY 2.0 / Phil Roeder / Flickr

Decoupling hog and crop production has had significant consequences for Iowa’s environment and the global climate. Previously, smaller and more diverse crop-and-livestock systems could only get so big, restrained in part by the amount of cropland that they could dedicate to growing feed. Smaller farms also produce less manure, which can be sustainably recycled onsite as fertilizer and thereby reduce chemical inputs on cropland.31

But artificially cheap feed and pressure from the pork industry have incentivized farms to expand their herds to previously unthinkable sizes. This creates a surplus manure problem, with many regions of the United States, including Iowa, producing more nutrients than can be sustainably recycled. These problems, compounded in regions with high densities of factory farms, contribute to runoff that pollutes soil and water.32 In 2021, American Rivers named Iowa’s Racoon River, which receives overflows from hundreds of factory hog operations, one of the country’s “Most Endangered Rivers.”33

RaCcOON RIVER

The Country’s Most Endangered Rivers: Raccoon River

​​American Rivers named Iowa’s Raccoon River one of the Most Endangered Rivers in the U.S. The Raccoon River supplies drinking water to over half a million Iowans. Des Moines Water Works, Iowa’s largest water utility, depends on the Raccoon River in order to provide residents of central Iowa with safe drinking water.

SCROLL SIDEWAYS TO NAVIGATE

Photo: Raccoon River
RACcOON RIVER

But industrial agriculture practices are rampant in the watershed. Over 750 factory farms are located in the basin and have put our access to clean water at risk. In order to provide safe drinking water to residents in Iowa’s capital city of Des Moines, the Des Moines Water Works was forced to invest in one of the world’s most expensive nitrate removal systems — a cost borne by ratepayers, not the corporate agribusiness entities responsible for the pollution. Why?

Photo: Hog farm in Iowa.
RACcOON RIVER

Because E. coli, MRSA, and toxic levels of nitrates are as much a part of the water in Iowa as hydrogen and oxygen. Where are they coming from? These harmful pathogens and pollutants originate in factory farms. Each year, over 3,600 factory farms across the state produce more than 72 billion pounds of manure. That waste is then spread on acre after acre of cropland, oftentimes in amounts far greater than the soil’s ability to absorb it. From there, the excess runs off into Iowa’s waters, polluting drinking water, limiting recreation on the water, and destroying critical plant and animal habitat.

Factory farms decimate rural economies and rural life, a price no one should have to pay so that corporations can profit.

The unsustainable factory farm model is pushing our climate to the limit. Globally, livestock production contributes 14.5 percent of all human-sourced greenhouse gas emissions.34 Yet Iowa’s hog production continues to balloon, with processors profiting off this glut by expanding export markets.35 At a critical juncture where climate scientists are urging nations to reduce livestock production to sustainable levels, the pork industry is promoting U.S. pork abroad and exporting as much as one-third of all U.S. production.36

The factory farm model is propped up by a cropping system that similarly encourages overproduction.37 Crop farmers faced the same pressures to “get big or get out” in the 1970s and 80s38; in 2017, Iowa produced 65 percent more corn and 85 percent more soybeans compared to 1982, but on 40 percent fewer farms (Figure 9). This is a highly inefficient system, with the vast majority of corn bushels not directly feeding people but instead getting processed into livestock feed, ethanol and food additives.39 Corn and soybean production also contribute to climate change, given the huge amounts of land and fossil fuel-derived inputs they consume.40

Transitioning to smaller, diverse crop-and-livestock systems can curb overproduction and lessen Iowa’s ecological footprint.41 But these systems can only scale up once we have reformed the federal farm safety net to support family-scale operations and to incentivize sustainable practices. Corporate agribusinesses spend millions of lobbying dollars to keep the current polluting system in place.42 We cannot address these climate impacts without combating corporate power.

Part 5:

Conclusion and Recommendations

We cannot solve this crisis without combating corporate power

The factory hog industry is not delivering on its promises to Iowa’s rural economies. In fact, counties with the most hog production score lower across a range of social and economic indicators compared to counties with less hog production. This report complements a Food & Water Watch economic analysis that found that, as corporations tightened their hold on Iowa’s hog production, the value shared by rural communities declined.

As illustrated in our first report in this series, “The Grocery Cartels,” corporate consolidation is at the heart of our food system’s dysfunction. Lax attitudes towards antitrust, embraced by leaders on both sides of the aisle, created space for a handful of powerful corporations to amass power over each step of the food supply chain. The problem is too big for any single farmer or eater to solve; we need our elected leaders to stand up against corporate power.

Legislation for a just food system

First, we need a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms, to solve this crisis that worsens every passing year. Moratorium legislation has been introduced in the Iowa legislature for the past several sessions; federal legislation like the Farm System Reform Act would similarly stop factory farm expansion while funding a just transition for existing factory farms.43 In addition, we must halt agribusiness mergers and break up big conglomerates through comprehensive legislation like the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act.44

But unravelling the factory farm model and transitioning to family-scale farms will take additional steps. We need to overhaul the federal farm safety net and steer U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) resources into smaller, diversified farms. Fortunately, we have this opportunity every five years, through omnibus legislation known as the Farm Bill. Here’s what we recommend:

Restore supply management in the next Farm Bill and ensure the programs benefit farmers of all backgrounds. The first Farm Bill was part of New Deal legislation, and a direct response to commodity overproduction that led to plummeting crop prices and drove many farms into foreclosure. This and other bills curbed overproduction, protected vulnerable cropland and guaranteed living wages for farmers who could access these programs.45

Here’s how supply management worked: The USDA would set a price floor for grains and provide loans based on this price floor, which farmers repaid after harvest. In years when market prices dropped below the price floor, the USDA collected the harvest as collateral, essentially buying surplus grains from the market for the federal grain reserve. Then, when drought or other disasters reduced crop yield, the USDA sold grains from the federal reserve into the market,46 smoothing out market volatility and ensuring a steady supply of grain to the benefit of both farmers and consumers.

Remarkably, supply management can operate at virtually no budgetary cost to taxpayers.47 We can reinstate supply management for grain crops and extend it to dairy — while ensuring participation by farmers of all backgrounds.

Reform — rather than remove — the current farm safety net. Immediately ending current farm subsidy programs would only drive more farmers off the land. Instead, we can realign these programs with the climate reality while moving toward a system that actually manages production. Participants in programs like federal subsidized crop insurance should be required to implement organic regenerative practices such as crop rotation or reduced pesticide reliance. We must also ban factory farms from receiving public funding from conservation programs and guaranteed loans.

Expand coverage for more crops that directly feed people. Feed corn, soybeans and cotton make up a huge chunk of acreage enrolled in federal crop insurance programs,48 while many fruits, vegetables and nuts are not eligible under many programs.49 Expanding safety net coverage to more specialty crops can help more farmers shift to new production systems.

Corporate interests have fought against supply management and other common-sense farm policies that would bring prosperity to rural America. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying each year for the current agricultural system that serves their corporate interests, all while claiming that they support the family farm.50 But the COVID-19 pandemic revealed whose side they are really on — and their total disregard for workers’ lives. We must elect leaders who are willing to stand up to these hog bosses and other agribusinesses. Only then can we pass a fair Farm Bill and reshape our food system so that it works for all farmers, food chain workers and eaters.

Part 6:

Methodology

Food & Water Watch compiled data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture, a comprehensive analysis of U.S. farms released every five years. We pulled data on the number of hogs sold and the number of hog farms in each Iowa county, for census years spanning 1982 through 2017. We also used the Census of Agriculture to estimate historical yields and prices for corn and soybeans.

For each census year, we sorted counties into quartiles by the total number of hogs sold. The top 50 counties were designated “high hog sale” counties, and the bottom 49 “low hog sale” counties. We used the same method to distinguish “large hog farm” and “small hog farm” counties, based on the average number of hogs sold per farm. This enabled us to compare economic outcomes between counties that saw the most factory farm development and those that saw the least. We created a third comparison based on population density (50 most-rural / 49 least-rural), using data compiled from the U.S. Census Bureau, providing a way to tease out the impacts of population density on the various economic outcomes.

The Census of Agriculture withholds county-level data on livestock numbers when there are only a handful of farms reporting, to protect farm identity. In these instances, we summed the available county-level data on hogs for a particular year and subtracted this by the state-level data to find the residual difference. We then divided this difference by the total number of farms in all counties with undisclosed data to generate a residual average. We multiplied this residual average by the number of farms in counties with undisclosed data, to derive an approximation. This method was repeated in various census years as needed.

We used many of the same economic indicators found in our 2012 report, matching the years with those of the Census of Agriculture (1982, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017) or the nearest approximate. We estimated total retail establishments using data from the Iowa Department of Revenue. Retail establishments by industry come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns. We used NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) data starting in census year 2002, and SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) codes for all earlier releases, matching with the closest approximation (i.e., NAICS 4451 “Grocery Stores” and SIC 541 “Grocery Stores”; NAICS 311611 “Animal (except Poultry) Slaughtering” and SIC 2011 “Meat Packing Plants”; NAICS 311612 “Meat Processed from Carcasses” and SIC 2013 “Sausages and Other Prepared Meat Products”).

The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey provided data on population, county landmass in square miles and median household income. Personal and farm income, and wage jobs, came from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. We converted all monetary data into January 2020 dollars using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) Inflation Calculator provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Congress needs to know you support a transition to diverse, family-scale farms. Will you send them a message?

Endnotes
  1. Decision Innovation Solutions. Prepared for Iowa Pork Producers Association. “2020 Iowa Pork Industry Report.” May 2020 at 6; Sexton, Richard. “Market power, misconceptions, and modern agricultural markets.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics. Vol. 95, Iss. 2. January 2013 at 6 to 7.
  2. Clark, E. Ann. “Benefits of re-integrating livestock and forages in crop production systems.” Journal of Crop Improvement. Vol. 12, Iss. 1-2. 2004 at 3 to 5; Ayazi, Hossein and Elsadig Elsheikh. Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. “The US Farm Bill: Corporate Power and Structural Racism in the United States Food System.” October 2015 at 26 to 27.
  3. Rasmussen, Wayne D. et al. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Economic Research Service (ERS). “A Short History of Agricultural Adjustment, 1933-75.” Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 391. March 1976 at 3 to 4; Reynolds, Bruce J. USDA. “Black Farmers in America, 1865-2000: The Pursuit of Independent Farming and the Role of Cooperatives.” RBS Research Report 194. October 2002 at 8 to 9.
  4. McGranahan, Devan A. et al. “A historical primer on the US farm bill: Supply management and conservation policy.” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. Vol. 68, No. 3. May/June 2013 at 68A to 70A; Ayazi and Elsheikh (2015) at 23 to 26.
  5. Olson, Allen H. “Federal farm programs — past, present and future — Will we learn from our mistakes?” Great Plains Natural Resources Journal. Vol. 6, No. 1. 2001-2002 at 13 to 16; Freese, Betsy. “How contract feeding changed the hog industry.” Successful Farming. November 25, 2019.
  6. Ayazi and Elsheikh (2015) at 26 to 27; Clark (2004) at 3 to 5.
  7. Decision Innovation Solutions (2020) at 29.
  8. USDA. Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. “2008 Annual Report.” March 1, 2009 at 46; USDA. Agricultural Marketing Service. “Packers and Stockyards Division: Annual Report 2019.” August 2020 at 9.
  9. Sexton (2013) at 2; Food & Water Watch (FWW) analysis of National Pork Board. “Pork Facts: The Pork Industry at a Glance.” 2009-2012.
  10. Lawrence, John D. “Hog marketing practices and competition questions.” Choices. Vol. 25, No. 2. 2nd Quarter 2010 at 2 to 3.
  11. Ajewole, Kayode et al. “Price reporting in a thin market.” Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics. Vol. 48, No. 4. November 2016 at 347 to 348 and 361 to 362; Willingham, Zoe and Andy Green. Center for American Progress. “A Fair Deal to Farmers: Raising Earnings and Rebalancing Power in Rural America.” May 2019 at 16 to 19.
  12. Lawrence (2010) at 2 to 3 and 5; Sexton (2013) at 6 to 7; MacDonald, James et al. USDA ERS. “Contracts, Markets, and Prices.” Agricultural Economic Report No. 837. November 2004 at 41.
  13. Ajewole et al. (2016) at 345 to 347.
  14. Ibid.; Lawrence (2010) at 4; MacDonald et al. (2004) at 50 to 52.
  15. Willingham and Green (2019) at 20.
  16. USDA ERS. “Pork values and spreads.” Available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/meat-price-spreads. Accessed August 2021.
  17. Decision Innovation Solutions (2020) at 42, figure 38.
  18. FWW. “The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies.” 2012.
  19. National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). “Pork facts.” Available at https://nppc.org/pork-facts. Accessed November 2021 and on file with FWW.
  20. Missouri Census Data Center. “All about measures of income in the Census.” Available at https://mcdc.missouri.edu/help/measures-of-income. Accessed December 2021 and on file with FWW.
  21. NPPC. “Pork facts”; NPPC. [Press release]. “New economic impact study on livestock rule means rural job losses & higher meat prices.” October 21, 2010.
  22. Swenson, Dave. Iowa State University and University of Iowa. Prepared for Niman Ranch. “The Economic Contribution of Niman Ranch Hog Production in Iowa.” March 2021 at 6, table 1 and 10.
  23. Decision Innovation Solutions (2020) at 61.
  24. Andrews, David and Timothy J. Kautza. Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. “Impact of Industrial Farm Animal Production on Rural Communities.” 2008 at v to vi; Donham, Kelley J. et al. “Community health and socioeconomic issues surrounding concentrated animal feeding operations.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 115, No. 2. February 2007 at 317; Foltz, Jeremy D. et al. “Do purchasing patterns differ between large and small dairy farms? Econometric evidence from three Wisconsin communities.” Agricultural and Resource Economics Review. Vol. 31, No. 1. April 2002 at 37; Swenson (2021) at 9.
  25. Kelsey, Timothy W. et al. Pennsylvania State University. College of Agricultural Sciences. “Not Inconsequential: The Economic Effect of Small Farms in Pennsylvania, 2017.” 2021 at 5 to 9.
  26. Decision Innovation Solutions (2020) at 26.
  27. MacDonald, James M. et al. USDA ERS. “Consolidation in U.S. Meatpacking.” AER-785. February 2000 at 14 to 15; Fitzgerald, Amy J. “A social history of the slaughterhouse: From inception to contemporary implications.” Research in Human Ecology. Vol. 17, No. 1. 2010 at 62 to 64.
  28. U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2020 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Available at https://www.bls.gov/iif/soii-data.htm#newsrelease.
  29. FWW. “Fact-checking Smithfield’s coronavirus food shortage BS.” April 22, 2020.
  30. McGranahan, David et al. USDA ERS. “Nonmetropolitan Outmigration Counties.” Economic Research Report No. 107. November 2010 at 2.
  31. Clark (2004) at 8, 19 and 24.
  32. Yang, Qichun et al. “Spatiotemporal patterns of livestock manure nutrient production in the conterminous United States from 1930 to 2012.” Science of the Total Environment. October 2015 at 14 to 20; Kellogg, Robert L. et al. USDA. Natural Resources Conservation Service and ERS. “Manure Nutrients Relative to the Capacity of Cropland and Pastureland to Assimilate Nutrients: Spatial and Temporal Trends for the United States.” Nps00-0579. December 2000 at executive summary, 1 and 89 to 92.
  33. Jones, Chris et al. “The urgent need to address nutrient imbalance problems in Iowa’s high-density livestock regions.” Agricultural Policy Review. Fall 2019 at discussion; Food & Water Action. “American Rivers has named Iowa river ‘Most Endangered’ in the country.” April 13, 2021.
  34. Gerber, P.J. et al. (2013). “Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock: A Global Assessment of Emissions and Mitigation Opportunities.” Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations at xii.
  35. USDA. Foreign Agricultural Service. “2020 United States Agricultural Export Yearbook.” 2021 at 1 to 2; Holcomb, Griffin. IBISWorld. “Meat, Beef & Poultry Processing in the US.” Industry Report No. 31161. March 2021 at 11, 14 and 20 to 21.
  36. Schiermeier, Quirin. “Eat less meat: UN climate-change report calls for change to human diet.” Nature. Corrected August 12, 2019; U.S. Meat Export Federation. “U.S. pork exports soared to new value, volume records in 2019.” National Hog Farmer. February 6, 2020.
  37. Smith, Trevor J. “Corn, cows, and climate change: How federal agricultural subsidies enable factory farming and exacerbate U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.” Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy. Vol. 9, Iss. 1. March 2019 at 47 to 48 and 55.
  38. McGranahan, Devan A. et al. (2013) at 69A to 71A.
  39. FWW analysis of USDA. National Agricultural Statistics Service. Quick Stats. Available at https://quickstats.nass.usda.gov. Accessed July 2020; “Sweet corn vs. field corn: What’s the difference?” La Crosse Tribune. October 16, 2015.
  40. Koneswaran, Gowri and Danielle Nierenberg. “Global farm animal production and global warming: Impacting and mitigating climate change.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 116, No. 5. May 2008 at 579.
  41. Clark (2004) at 11 to 13.
  42. Ayazi and Elsheikh (2015) at 26 to 27 and 34.
  43. Cadloff, Emily Baron. “Iowa representative pushing to ban new factory farms.” Modern Farmer. February 10, 2022; S. 3221. 116th Cong. (2019).
  44. S. 1596. 116th Cong. (2019).
  45. Rasmussen et al. (1976) at 3 to 5; Reynolds (2002) at 8 to 9.
  46. Graddy-Lovelace, Garrett and Adam Diamond. “From supply management to agricultural subsidies — and back again? The U.S. Farm Bill & agrarian (in)viability.” Journal of Rural Studies. Vol. 50. February 2017 at 76.
  47. Ibid at 76; McMinimy, Mark A. Congressional Research Service (CRS). “U.S. Sugar Program Fundamentals.” R43998. April 6, 2016 at summary.
  48. Shields, Dennis A. CRS. “Federal Crop Insurance: Background.” R40532. August 13, 2015 at summary; Schnepf, Randy. CRS. [Fact sheet]. “2018 Farm Bill primer: Marketing Assistance Loan program.” IF11162. April 3, 2019 at 2.
  49. Rosa, Isabel and Renée Johnson. CRS. “Federal Crop Insurance: Specialty Crops.” R45459. Updated January 14, 2019 at 9; Smith (2019) at 43 to 44.
  50. Ayazi and Elsheikh (2015) at 15; Open Secrets. “Sector profile: Agribusiness.” Available at https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/sectors/summary?id=A. Accessed December 2021 and on file with FWW; Duvall, Zippy. American Farm Bureau Federation. “Your voice is essential to our country’s success.” July 21, 2021.

The World’s Biggest Carbon Capture Scam Is Coming to Iowa

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Phoebe Galt and Emma Schmit

Overnight, Iowa has become ground zero for the world’s biggest carbon capture scam. Two corporations, Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator Heartland Greenway LLC, have proposed carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects. Each of them will require building hundreds of miles of hazardous pipelines across the state. The science and technology behind the ventures is unproven and unsound — minor details overlooked in the name of corporate greed. Iowa’s Governor Reynolds is happily ushering the projects forward.

We’re talking about “capturing” carbon emitted from ethanol and fertilizer facilities, transporting that hazardous material via pipeline, and injecting it into ancient rock formations. The companies claim that their technology is a requisite solution to the climate crisis. They’re lying.

‘Capturing’ Carbon Won’t Stop the Climate Crisis — It’ll Dig a Deeper Hole

CCS is a false climate solution, propped up by Big Energy and Big Ag so they can continue to profit. CCS relies on fundamental falsehoods to pull the wool over the public’s eyes about their real climate impact. Here’s how it’s supposed to work: carbon capture attempts to trap greenhouse gas emissions from smokestacks (in this case from dirty ethanol plants). It then transports the hazardous gas through communities via explosive pipelines, and injects it underground. In reality, these projects fail to capture all harmful emissions. They also don’t account for the pollution that goes into creating the ethanol in the first place. The industry also keeps quiet about CCS’ role in fossil fuel extraction. The dirty truth is that most of the captured carbon is pumped into oil wells to increase oil production. 

Carbon Capture Keeps Big Ag Alive

Over 13 million acres of land in Iowa are devoted to growing corn. Of that corn, 50% is currently used to produce ethanol. But those uniform acres of corn come at a serious cost to climate and communities. Industrial monocropping traps farmers in a cycle of dependence on Big Ag giants, like Monsanto, and forces their hand. Producers are required to use destructive farming techniques like tilling and fossil fuel-derived fertilizer application to turn a profit. Big Ag has profited off the lie that corn-derived ethanol is a “low carbon” fuel. They hope we’ll ignore the mega-emissions and harmful practices required to make it, so they can keep this system going.

Iowa is also littered with more than 10,000 factory farms, leaving communities to deal with their impact. This includes harmful water pollution, slumping rural economies and negative health effects. The ethanol industry plays a direct role in the success of the factory farming model. A leftover byproduct of the ethanol process is distillers grain, a cheap feed option often used in factory farming. Indeed, the existence of cheap feed is one of the leading factors keeping factory farming profitable. CCS will only make it worse, entrenching ethanol plants and factory farms, instead of shifting to a more sustainable system.

Carbon Pipelines Keep Fossil Fuels On The Grid

CCS and the miles of pipelines required to transport hazardous gases offer a lifeline to the fossil fuel industry. Pipelines created for carbon can also be used to transport fossil fuels, extending the industry’s reach.

What’s more, CCS can be used to extract even more fossil fuels. The majority of domestic CCS projects currently in operation are small projects located close to fossil fuel extraction and power plant sites. Where the carbon is created at these sites, it’s injected underground to extract oil. Summit has left the door open to this destructive process, known as enhanced oil recovery. Their pipeline runs right to Bakken oil fields in the Dakotas. 

Iowa CCS Projects Come At Our Risk And Our Cost

Iowans are expected to take on all of the risks of these CCS proposals, while Wall Street gets the reward. And the risks are tremendous. Carbon is an invisible, odorless gas that acts as an asphyxiant in the event of a pipeline rupture. It’s happened before; an entire town was gassed in 2020, sending 49 people to the hospital. Some of them are now saddled with negative lifelong health issues.

Rural community health systems are already overburdened by the enduring pandemic. Most Iowa communities don’t have the training or timely access to emergency services to properly handle a mass gassing event. The last thing our support services need is dangerous hazardous gas moving through peoples’ backyards.

Tens of thousands of Iowans are expected to risk their lives for these projects — and we’re expected to fund it. Like Big Ag and the fossil fuel industry, Summit and Navigator can only profit by crushing real people. Despite clear proof that CCS doesn’t work, we continue to see public tax dollars wasted on this false promise. Summit’s record-keeping shows their carbon pipeline proposal will be eligible for up to $600 million in tax credits each year. This is an immoral use of our public money.

Iowans Deserve Better Than Carbon Capture Scams

Iowans’ lives are a damn sight more important than the balance of multi-millionaires’ bank accounts. If you believe in putting people before corporate profit, join us in opposing carbon pipelines.

Tell President Biden to oppose carbon capture schemes — your voice can make a difference!

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Five Cities Where Wildfire Smoke Is Making It Harder to Breathe

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Climate and Energy

by Arianna Chopelas

Burning nostrils. Watery eyes. A cough that won’t quit. These are feelings that are all too familiar to people living in the Western U.S. The sunny, blue skies that were once a backdrop for beach days and camping trips are now smoky and grey, serving as a frequent reminder that we are in a climate crisis. And this summer, Western wildfires made national headlines when the smoke turned air quality “unhealthy” all the way in New York City.

Air pollution from wildfire smoke is full of dangerous, microscopic particles called PM 2.5. These tiny specks of debris can lead to long-term health problems like respiratory disease, heart failure and developmental impacts in children, not to mention the mental health stresses of living in a world shrouded in smoke. 

But protecting our communities from climate change and these fires is as much of an environmental justice issue as it is a public health issue. Low-income communities and communities of color are already more likely to live in areas with unhealthy air quality, and due to years of systemic racism, suffer from higher rates of disease and illnesses like COVID-19. Adding in another layer like wildfire smoke is like pouring fuel on the fire.

The Drought in the West and Climate Change Are Making Smoky Skies the New Normal

Here are five cities where smoky skies are getting worse – and might become standard – if our elected officials don’t act to stop climate catastrophe and ban the fossil fuel infrastructure that’s driving it.

Known for its ancient Native pueblos and towering mountains, Flagstaff, Arizona is one of the many Western cities living in a fog of wildfire smoke. From 2016-2020, people living in Flagstaff experienced an average of 72 smoky days every year, which is a 79 percent increase from the years 2009-2013. Since most summers are 92 days long, that means that Flagstaff residents could have experienced unhealthy air quality and smoke for almost four out of five days of the summer.

The geography of California’s state capital already makes it vulnerable to air pollution, with smog and PM 2.5 often collecting in the valley throughout the year. The addition of wildfire smoke left residents having to cope with an average of 58 unhealthy air quality days per year from 2016-2020. On top of that, people living in Sacramento experienced a shocking 174 percent increase in unhealthy air quality days compared to 2009-2013. And even more shocking? People living in neighboring Yuba County experienced an average of 81 smoky days per year from 2016-2020. Yes, you read that right: 81.

Reno’s proximity to the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California means it’s also close to California’s wildfires. From the years 2016-2020, Reno residents experienced an average of 42 smoky days every year, which represents a considerable difference and a 132 percent increase compared to the years 2009-2013. In 2021 alone, Reno lived through 24 days of an unhealthy air quality index of 101 or higher – all before mid-August.

People living in the Denver area are no strangers to wildfire smoke, but that doesn’t make the increased number of smoky days any more manageable. With residents experiencing an average of 40 wildfire smoke-affected days per year from 2016-2020, that would be like spending nearly half of every summer unable to see the horizon and breathing unhealthy air. 

Portland made national headlines earlier this year after an extreme heatwave melted streetcar power cables and killed nearly 100 people. But what didn’t make the headlines is another climate change-related problem: Portland’s residents experienced an average of 34 smoky days per year from 2016-2020. Compared to the average of 23 smoky days per year from 2009-2013, that represents an increase of almost 50 percent.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Like This. We Can Stop Our Planet From Going Up in Smoke.

By refusing to stop new fossil fuel infrastructure and relying on false climate solutions like carbon capture or “renewable” natural gas, our elected officials and the Biden administration are locking us into decades more of fossil fuel dependence, all but ensuring that climate change – and the resulting droughts and wildfires – will only get worse. Switching sunglasses out for N-95 respirators and having important community events canceled because of fires simply isn’t sustainable.

That’s why all of us in the climate movement need to raise our voices together and demand that the Biden administration start taking the climate crisis seriously. Will you sign a petition now to urge President Biden to ban fracking on federal lands? We need to act now – before it’s not just harder to breathe, but impossible.

President Biden, it’s time to ban fracking on federal lands.

Time Is Up On Fossil Fuels, Biden. Our Communities Can’t Wait!

Categories

Climate and Energy

Photo by Emad Mohammed | Survival Media Agency

by Laurel Levin and Thomas Meyer

As the climate crisis has picked up speed, so has the movement to stop it in its tracks. From October 11th – 15th, Food & Water Watch co-organized the People vs. Fossil Fuels actions in D.C. Throughout the week, thousands took to the steps of the White House and the U.S. Capitol with a clear demand. We asked that President Biden stop all new projects involving fossil fuels and declare a national climate emergency. Indigenous organizers and other front-line communities made the message loud and clear. Continuing business as usual is catastrophic for our communities, our water, our health, and our future. 

Food & Water Watch mobilized our allies from many different local campaigns to join the action in DC. From the fight against fracking in Pennsylvania and pipelines in Virginia, we came together to demand that President Biden end the era of fossil fuels. In addition to dozens of volunteers and activists, twelve Food & Water Watch staff participated in civil disobedience on October 14.

A Glimpse Into The Action At The People Vs. Fossil Fuels Rallies

In total, over 650 people were arrested in nonviolent civil disobedience. It generated a huge amount of media coverage, and forced the Biden administration to publicly respond to our demands!

Each day, hundreds of people gathered at Freedom Plaza for opening prayer and grounding. Indigenous water protectors, activists, and Tribal leaders from across the country lead the march from Freedom Plaza to the White House. Then on the final day, youth organizers led as we marched to the Capitol. All told, about 120 people on average were arrested daily in an act of peaceful civil disobedience. The purpose was to demand that President Biden uphold his promises on climate action.

People who volunteered to be arrested stand in front of the White House during a march to protest against fossil fuels on Thursday, October 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
People who volunteered to be arrested stand in front of the White House during a march to protest against fossil fuels on Thursday, October 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades | Survival Media Agency

The Message Was Clear — Choose People Over Fossil Fuels

Protesters rallied under banners that read “Our Communities Cannot Wait,” “Stop Fueling the Flames,” and “Real Solutions, No Bullshit.” Speakers from Alaska to Louisiana gave testimony about heatwaves, floods, fires, hurricanes, and other climate disasters that threaten their communities. The gravity of these testimonies fueled our spirits and kept the energy going through each long day.

Additionally, we heard from Ginny Marcille-Kerslake, the Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer for Food & Water Watch. She gave a moving testimonial on Thursday about the Mariner East pipeline cutting through her community in Chester County.

Ginny Marcille-Kerslake, the Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer for Food & Water Watch, speaks about the devastation of pipelines that transport fossil fuels.
Ginny Marcille-Kerslake, the Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer for Food & Water Watch. Photo credit: Rebecca Wolf

“This fracked gas pipeline has brought danger and destruction to families across Pennsylvania. But it has also helped change public opinion, and now residents from across the political spectrum oppose fracking and the pipeline. President Biden may falsely believe he won Pennsylvania on account of his support for fracking, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Fracking is a loser for our climate, air, water, health and safety.”

Ginny Marcille-Kerslake, Food & Water Watch Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer

Biden Has The Unique Authority To Act On Climate Now

President Biden has the authority through executive action to implement our demands today; no messy negotiations in Congress necessary. But here’s the main problem: Biden is unwilling to take on the fossil fuel industry. As a movement, we must make it clear that anything less than a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels is not enough. We call on President Biden to deliver on his promises. He must directly take on the fossil fuel industry to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground.

The Pressure Activists Are Placing On Biden To Thwart Climate Change Is Just Beginning

People vs. Fossil Fuels was the largest climate mobilization and civil disobedience action in years, but the struggle continues. Our actions forced the Biden administration to respond to our demands. Additionally, they highlighted resistance to fossil fuel projects just weeks before the next UN Climate Summit in Glasgow.

Casey Camp Horineck, Councilwoman and Hereditary Drumkeeper of the Women's Scalp Dance Society, of the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma, speaks at the People Vs. Fossil Fuels mobilization.
Casey Camp Horineck, Councilwoman and Hereditary Drumkeeper of the Women’s Scalp Dance Society, of the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma, speaks at the People Vs. Fossil Fuels mobilization. Photo by Shadia Fayne Wood | Survival Media Agency

Overwhelmingly, this week of action demonstrated that the people have had enough empty promises and watered-down climate policies. At Food & Water Watch, we are determined to keep the pressure on. We’re meeting President Biden and his team wherever they go across the country, demanding that they stop fossil fuels and declare a climate emergency. And it’s not just us. Rep. Cori Bush’s office, along with twelve other members of Congress, released this letter. It calls on President Biden to meet our demands and act on fossil fuels before it’s too late. 

Urge President Biden to show bold leadership through executive action today!

Use your voice to stand in solidarity and ask President Biden to act now.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline Could Decide President Biden’s Climate Legacy

Categories

Climate and Energy

A collaboration of the Protect Our Water Heritage Rights Coalition and Food & Water Watch. All photography by Matthew Pickett.

Frontline and Indigenous communities turned out in record numbers to elect President Biden, who campaigned on a platform of bold climate action. But our allies fighting on the frontlines of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a sprawling, multi-state fracked gas monstrosity, have yet to see the President match his rhetoric with executive action. Within the next six months, it will be agencies and appointees in the Biden administration who will cast deciding votes on the controversial project’s future, offering a critical climate test by which the president’s legacy will be judged.

MVP Is An Unnecessary Relic of The Fossil Fuel Era

We are facing a climate crisis of epic proportions and fossil fuels are to blame. But instead of issuing a clear ultimatum to end our reliance on fossil fuels, our President has remained silent on some of the largest fossil fuel infrastructure projects moving forward under his administration. MVP is one of them.

The MVP is a massive interstate fracked gas pipeline, seeking building approvals across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. A frequent perpetrator of environmental injustice, the pipeline threatens to burden low-income communities and communities of color with the health and safety risks of living near a fracked gas pipeline and the trauma of battling the corporate intruder.

The proposed route covers hundreds of miles of high landslide risk areas, cuts through nationally protected forests, threatens regional waterways and clean drinking water supplies, and will add an additional 90 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere every year — equal to that of 23 new coal plants. The pipeline corporation has already accumulated millions of dollars in penalties owed for environmental violations and mired dozens of landowners in extensive legal battles to regain access to their private property taken using eminent domain.

MVP is wildly out of line with Biden’s climate promises — it must be stopped.

This October, We Brought The Fight Against MVP to Biden

Holding signs and leading chants, we brought the fight against MVP to the White House. We marched with frontline activists and people from around the country as part of the People vs Fossil Fuels mobilization, demanding President Biden take executive action to end the fossil fuel era and stop MVP. A full photo essay is available from our allies at POWHR.

The People V. MVP

When a pipeline corporation comes to your door requesting permission to bore through your family farm, the fossil fuel resistance gets personal. For residents of Southwest Virginia, the fight against MVP is more than just a counter to the fossil fuels amplifying the climate crisis — it is a fight to protect family and home.

SCROLL SIDEWAYS TO NAVIGATE

The People V. MVP

Biden has thus far abdicated his responsibility to act on MVP. That means it is the frontline communities who must bear the burden we elected him to relieve. It’s time for the President to step in and take this pipeline off our shoulders.

THE PEOPLE V. MVP

“We have been organizing against the Mountain Valley Pipeline since 2014 and we will continue to resist that project until it is defeated,” said Russell Chisholm, Coordinator, Mountain Valley Watch, and Co-Chair, Protect Our Water Heritage Rights. “Not just to protect our water, not just to protect that tiny spring that feeds my home, but to protect our brothers and sisters who live along the Gulf Coast, who live with the climate induced catastrophes all the way back to Katrina.”

THE PEOPLE V. MVP

“When we march together, we show the power that the people hold,” said Jorge Aguilar, Food & Water Watch Southern Region Director. “President Biden cannot be silent in the face of our movement — it’s time for him to make MVP the first domino to fall, signaling the end of the fossil fuel era.”

To Come Clean on His Climate Commitments, Biden Must Stop MVP

MVP is wildly out of line with Biden’s climate goals, and it will take us backwards in the fight to lower our reliance on the fossil fuels driving the climate crisis. We stand in solidarity with frontline and grassroots activists across Virginia including our allies at POWHR, as they face down their eighth year of sustained resistance to the project.

Ultimately, the decision on MVP is one that President Biden can influence. His Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will have the final say on the project. Will he shut the project down like he did with Keystone XL? Or will he remain silent, and lock the planet into a fossil fuel future, as with Line 3? The choice is in the president’s hands.

Join us in demanding President Biden side with people, not fossil fuels.

Send Biden a message — it’s time to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

We’re Following Biden Everywhere To Urge The End Of Fossil Fuels

Categories

Climate and Energy

Photo CC-BY © Nasa Earth Observatory / Flickr.com

by Thomas Meyer

With historic drought, fires, hurricanes, and floods, the impacts of our collapsing climate are being felt all across the country, but despite his rhetoric about climate change being an “existential threat,” President Biden and his team have continued to advance a fossil fuel-friendly agenda

That’s why we’re working with our allies to organize people across the country whenever and wherever Biden and team go. 

We’ve challenged Biden directly in California, Ohio, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey. When he came to survey damage from climate disasters, we told him to stop fossil fuels.

Biden, Sacramento, 9/13/21

Biden, New York + New Jersey, 9/7/21

Biden, Alexandria, 7/23/21

Biden, Cincinnati, 7/21/21

McCarthy, San Diego, 8/17/21

When Climate Czar Gina McCarthy came to California and promoted fracked gas as she did during the Obama administration, we were there to confront her.

Granholm, Berkeley, 8/20/21

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is a big proponent of liquified fracked gas exports and when she came to California and New Jersey, we were there with a clear message: No more fossil fuels, ban fracking now!

Granholm, New Jersey, 7/14/21

This is just in the last couple of months and we’re just getting started. You can join our next actions in Washington, DC from October 11-15 to urge Biden to finally choose the good of the people over handouts for the fossil fuel industry.

Join us in DC to demand Biden choose People Vs Fossil Fuels!

Mark Ruffalo

Actor & Environmental Advocate

Max Frost

Singer / Songwriter

Dr. Xue Zhang

Postdoctoral Associate, Cornell University

Dr. Mildred Warner

Professor, Cornell University

Matt Smith

New Jersey State Director

Tyler Lobdell

Staff Attorney

Emily Wurth

Managing Director of Organizing

Tarah Heinzen

Legal Director

Emily Miller

Staff Attorney

Brooke Errett

Senior Florida Organizer

Thomas Meyer

National Climate Organizing Manager

Krissy Kasserman

Factory Farm Organizing Director

Mary Grant

Public Water for All Campaign Director

Arianna Chopelas

Social Media Manager

Oakley Shelton-Thomas

Researcher

Alex Beauchamp

Northeast Region Director

Michelle Allen

Deputy Director, Southern Region

Angie Aker

Digital Content Manager

Jorge Aguilar

Southern Region Director

Rep. Jamie Raskin

U.S. Representative

Rep. Brenda Lawrence

U.S. Representative

Rep. Nanette Barragán

U.S. Representative

Ed Begley, Jr.

Actor & Environmental Activist

Federal Legislation for a Just Food System

Categories

PDFFood System

Sussex County Council Approves Up to $60 Million in Bonds to Cover Bioenergy DevCo Costs

Categories

Climate and Energy

Georgetown, DE — Today, the Sussex County Council voted to approve up to $60 million in Private Activity Bonds to cover construction and other costs associated with Bioenergy DevCo’s recently approved biogas scheme. The vote came one week after the Council voted to approve a conditional use permit for the industrial gas production facility to be sited near Seaford in an agricultural-residential zone, despite an outpouring of public opposition.

In order to build their massive gas production and refining project, Bioenergy DevCo will need to secure numerous state pollution permits. If permitted, this Sussex County factory farm gas facility will be the company’s first in Delaware and their fourth project in the United States since joining forces with Italy-based BTS Biogas to enter the US market. A portion of the $60 million in private activity bonds will be exempt from federal income taxes, meaning taxpayers will subsidize the start-up costs of the dirty gas facility, rather than go toward projects that directly benefit County residents. The site is located in a community where a third of the residents currently live below the poverty line. 

In response, Food & Water Watch Delaware Organizer Greg Layton issued the following statement:

“Today’s vote confirms one of our worst suspicions — that taxpayers will subsidize the cost of this polluting facility, all to assure venture capitalists a ready profit. The hundreds of residents who expressed public opposition to the biogas scheme should have been considered in the decision to issue the tax exempt bonds, which are limited in supply, to fund the very project they opposed. Governor Carney must stop this project in its tracks, and direct the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to deny Bioenergy DevCo its pollution permits.”

Florida Legislature Passes Extreme Energy Preemption Bills

Categories

Climate and Energy

Tallahassee, FL — Yesterday, the Florida State Senate voted to pass a suite of energy preemption legislation that has been making its way through the legislature. The bills, SB 1128/HB 919 and SB 856/HB 839, now head to Governor DeSantis’ desk for his signature. If signed into law, the suite of bills would preempt any local government action to restrict or prohibit sources of energy production, thus hampering local governments’ abilities to move off fossil fuels. 

Part of a nationwide push by the oil and gas industry to preempt local government initiatives to move off fossil fuels, Florida’s bills are the most stringent to move ahead in any of the fourteen states with similar legislation under consideration. Another dangerous bill making its way through the legislature is SB 896/HB 539, which would redefine Florida’s clean energy to include false solutions like “renewable natural gas,” ensuring fossil fuel industry entrenchment for years to come. The bill would also prevent communities from being able to decide if and where to site utility-scale solar installations. 

In response, Food & Water Watch Florida Senior Organizer Brooke Errett issued the following statement:

“The Florida legislature is drilling the nail into their own coffin. Instead of following the lead of our local legislators who have forged boldly ahead with clean energy resolutions that respond to constituent demands, our state legislators are carrying water for industry interests. Florida will suffer from these energy preemption bills today and in the future, as we try to fight climate change’s worst impacts only to find our toolboxes emptied. Governor DeSantis pledged to fight for Florida’s environment and ban fracking — which he has thus far failed to do. DeSantis now has the chance to rise to this historic occasion and veto these dangerous energy preemption bills, or he will be responsible for driving the final stake into the heart of Florida’s clean energy future.”

###

(Note: For additional background, read this op-ed by Food & Water Watch Senior Florida organizer Brooke Errett)

Well-Fed

REPORT - April 2021

What You’ll Learn From This Report

  • 1: A Broken Food System
    • Deciding what and how to farm should be left to farmers, not corporations
  • 2: From Extractive To Regenerative Food Systems
    • The farmers at the forefront of this movement
  • 3: Rebuilding Regional Food Hubs
    • Rebuilding regional food hubs connects farmers and eaters, and reduces the monopoly corporate agribusiness has on the food system.
  • 4: Policy Recommendations: A Roadmap To A Just Transition
    • Here are our policy recommendations on how to pivot to this much-needed systemic change.
  • 5: Conclusion
    • We can build regenerative food systems

Part 1:

Our Food System Is Broken

Deciding what and how to farm should be left to farmers, not corporations.

Corporate monopolies control food production.

Today’s supermarkets seem like the pinnacle of choice and variety. But consumers might be surprised to learn that this choice is really a façade, and that a few companies dominate the market in each food category. Your steak? Just four companies slaughter 83 percent of all U.S. cattle (see Figure 1).1 Your flour? It likely comes from Ardent Mills or ADM Milling, which together mill half of all U.S. wheat.2 And then there are companies that profit from value-added processing of raw ingredients. The jars of Gerber, boxes of Cheerios and Lean Cuisine, and tins of Fancy Feast in your shopping cart are all Nestlé-owned brands.3 Agribusinesses make consumers feel like they have ample choices, while forcing them to buy much of their food from just a handful of corporations.

Livestock Farmers Sell into Highly Concentrated Markets

Market share of top four processing firms

Source Data: USDA AMS 20184

Even supermarkets themselves have gobbled up competitors and secured huge market shares. Four companies — Walmart, Kroger, Costco and Ahold Delhaizea — control 65 percent of the grocery market.5 This stranglehold raises food prices and wipes out local grocery stores, reducing food access in both rural and urban communities (see Figure 2).6

Supersizing the Supermarket: National Market Share

Source Data: CBRE 20197

Less competition among agribusinesses means higher prices and fewer choices for consumers. But for farmers and the rural communities they support, it is a fight to survive.

Corporate agribusinesses gut rural America.

Market consolidation has wiped out competition, giving farmers fewer choices when they buy seed and feed and when they bring products to market (see Figure 3 on page 3). As a result, they face both rising costs and stagnating income.8 In fact, today’s median farm income is negative $1,840; many farms manage to stay afloat through off-farm income.9

Ironically, while farmers have little power in our industrial food system, they often receive much of the blame for that broken system. Misguided policymakers and others deride farmers for overproduction, for receiving subsidies, or for participating in contract farming when all of these are symptoms of the underlying dysfunction in the food system.

Market Share Of Top Four Seed Firms

All Source Data: ETC Group 201810

Market Share Of Top Four Agrochemical Firms

All Source Data: ETC Group 201810

Corporate consolidation also hurts rural communities. Local slaughterhouses and flour mills have shuttered as processing facilities became fewer and larger. Revenue that once circulated in rural communities and built thriving main streets is now funneled to Wall Street and far-away corporate headquarters.11

Corporate agriculture perpetuates exploitation and racism.

Our farming system rests on stolen land, stolen labor and stolen resources, including forced removal of Indigenous peoples, the enslavement of African Americans and the sharecropping model. These systems persist today in vertically-integrated livestock systems that lock farmers into abusive contracts and high debt, the patenting of Indigenous seed varieties, the freezing-out of farmers of color from federal loans and subsidies, and the exploitation of low-wage labor in dangerous conditions in our nation’s produce fields and slaughterhouses.12

Industrial agriculture is extractive.

The industrial farming system focuses on squeezing out as much profit as possible, with little regard for long-term environmental ecological or public health impacts. Planting monocultures year-after-year can impair soil health.13 So does spraying synthetic pesticides. Intensive practices also harm bees and other pollinators and microorganisms that make up healthy ecosystems.14

Factory Hog Farm Counties Produce as Much Waste as Metropolitan Areas

Source Data: Food & Water Watch analysis of USDA 2017 Census of Agriculture15
Industrial agriculture pollutes the environment and fuels climate change.

Factory farms confine thousands of animals in inhumane, unsanitary conditions. They produce more manure waste than can be sustainably disposed and increase the risk of diseases jumping from livestock to humans (See Figure 4).16 In many parts of the country, factory farms are concentrated around communities of color and low- income communities, making them environmental justice catastrophes.17

Rural communities bear the brunt of pollution from industrial farming, from pesticide exposure to toxic emissions from factory farms.18 Yet these impacts reach far beyond the farm; nutrient runoff from manure and pesticide application pollutes waterways, contributing to fish kills and aquatic “dead zones” from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.19 Pesticide residue is found on all food types of food, from organic produce that was never sprayed with pesticides to human breast milk.20

Agriculture is also one of the largest human sources of climate change; across the entire production chain, it contributes 19 to 29 percent of all human-sourced emissions. Overproduction of commodities and meat, food waste, growing crops for fuel, and use of synthetic fertilizers produced from fossil fuels all enlarge this footprint.21

Our food production chain is not resilient.

Decades of unchecked corporate consolidation has worn away our food system’s resilience.22 For instance, large, centralized processing facilities replaced the regional slaughterhouses and dairy processors that once dotted the rural landscape, leaving farmers with fewer options for marketing their products.23 When some of these large facilities closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, many farmers were left with no choice but to euthanize livestock or dump milk — gut-wrenching scenarios that would not have been as widespread if we still had networks of smaller facilities serving local markets.24

Our food system does a poor job of feeding people.

Even after accounting for commodities grown to feed livestock and produce energy, the U.S. still has roughly 4,000 calories of nutrients available per day per capita.25 Yet nearly one in seven children live in food-insecure households.26

Much of what goes into deciding what and how to farm is shaped by agribusiness, not farmers. Corporations set farm markets and policy.27 We need to join farmers and food chain workers to break Big Ag’s stranglehold and rebuild our food systems so they work for everyone. It can be difficult to imagine what alternatives to the industrial system might look like. We can start by learning from those at forefront of this movement, who are building healthy farmland and rural communities through regenerative agriculture.

Part 2:

From Extractive to Regenerative Food Systems

The farmers at the forefront of this movement

Regenerative agriculture is generating a lot of buzz today, with everyone from food activists to big agribusinesses floating the term. But with no unifying definition, the term “regenerative” can take on different meanings.28 So let’s start by defining what we mean by “regenerative food systems.”

Regenerative food systems are those that invest in the long-term health and fertility of farmland; build soil and prioritize soil health; and rely on natural rather than synthetic inputs. They embody these principles along each step of the food supply chain — investing in local economies; providing farmers and food chain workers with living wages and safe working conditions; and addressing racial and economic injustice. The regenerative movement shares roots with organic farming, a reaction against the environmental degradation caused by industrial farming. Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees the National Organic Program, creating standards for the organic label and certifying compliance. Regenerative farming, on the other hand, has no federal standards or label any farmer or food company can market their products as regenerative.

Some regenerative advocates market it as a new concept that goes beyond the limits of organic agriculture.29 This is a disservice to the organic community and its decades of work in strengthening the integrity of the organic label and increasing federal funding for organic research and adoption. It also erases centuries of contributions from indigenous and other farmers of color who farmed regeneratively long before the term emerged.30

In this piece, we use the term “regenerative” as an umbrella term for sustainable farming systems. Some of the farms featured are certified organic whereas others have not sought certification. What unites them is a holistic method of farming that seeks to regenerate, rather than extract, natural resources.