The state has little involvement in Carbon Credits except to sell a storage area, known as Carbon Sequestration, or sell a CO2 filter, known as Carbon Offsets. These bills are merely a framework to allow us to get started investigating the possibilities, nothing more. They are not ESG and contain no state tax incentives or other financial obligations to Alaskans, other than the cost of establishing an office to monitor and develop this process. The ultimate return to the state could be billions of dollars in the next two or three decades on this small investment.
The storage area or “hole” bill (HB50)
The “Storage area” strategy is a hole or well drilled 2800 feet underground. These wells are known as Title Six wells and are drilled to access what is known as “pore storage” which may be the reservoirs that oil came out of, or possibly other porous areas that had no oil in them. The well may also be used to access unusable coal seams below 2800 feet which contain a type of coal that is not useable to us even if we wanted a deep shaft coal mine.
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These wells, which will inject pressurized CO2 into the ground, are fully permitted by the EPA and the state. Remember that CO2 is an inert gas that is only harmful to humans in enough concentration to remove oxygen. In fact, carbonated water is carbonated by adding CO2 (carbonic acid) to water. Also, keep in mind that we have been injecting CO2 into the ground since the 1970s to help with extended oil recovery.
An overarching reason to put this framework in place has to do with the gas line. Prior to putting natural gas into the pipeline, it must have the CO2 stripped out of it. Having a “storage” area, via this bill, on the north slope, is way cheaper than shipping it out via a barge – and better for the environment than just venting it to the open air. So, if an oil or gas company wants to “sequester” their carbon for whatever reason, shouldn’t we charge them for it? This is our land – our resource – and our constitution mandates that we develop our resources. So, if oil/gas companies want to use leased land and drill wells to store their carbon, should we not be the ones to lease it to them – and then charge them by the ton to store their carbon in our empty reservoirs?
The filter or “tree” bill (HB49)
The ”tree,” or “filter,” bill allows a company anywhere in the world to lease a piece of our forest, or possibly mariculture area, to “offset” their carbon footprint or emissions. Scientists know that a certain acreage of trees (or kelp), filters a certain tonnage of carbon – e.g., the tree or kelp uses the carbon to grow, and then produces oxygen. According to the US Forest Service, America’s forests currently sequester over 800 million tons of carbon a year. During the process of photosynthesis trees pull carbon out of the atmosphere to grow. So, forests store carbon in the trees and soil. Trees would also release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere through decomposition when they die; so it is up to us to manage the forests and cut the tree before it dies and rots. Keep in mind that carbon within forests is captured and released on a cycle, thus forest management can influence these cycles and enhance carbon capture by harvesting the trees into lumber before they rot and release the carbon back to the atmosphere.
This bill would also provide a framework for the state to use this strategy and would help us on many levels. For instance, it would require that we manage our forests which is good for fire prevention as well as wood growth – AND we would get paid for doing so. So, if we can get paid to do something we should already be doing, isn’t that a win-win? Keep in mind that this leased land, and forests, would still be useable to Alaskans for hunting, hiking, trail riding, etc. It would not section off, fence off, or otherwise set aside the land or prevent us from using it. In fact, it may provide more access via logging roads and trails. More access for Alaskans, not only for recreation but for firefighting as well.
There are many misconceptions surrounding HB49 and HB50 as well as the bills in the Senate. Most of these misconceptions and half-truths are born of the disdain for the Environmental Social Governance (ESG) or Green New Deal, which we all know is a farce. Let me assure you, this is not the direction the state is going. And if people will read the bills or watch the House Resource committee meetings (archived and linked below), they will see that we have spent a LOT of time on making sure we understood the direction the Governor and DNR wanted to go.
My staff and I have spent hundreds of hours on these bills and on understanding what, exactly, they are designed to accomplish. Rest assured, the Governor dislikes the ESG idea as bad as any conservative and he (and the DNR personnel) have assured me on multiple occasions – on the record – that it is not their intent; nor will it be their intent to drive us into ESG or Green New Deal policies.
But if a company wants to voluntarily sequester or offset their carbon, Alaska should be prepared to offer our services to them… as we Alaskans do it cleaner and better than anyone else on the planet. We have a constitutional mandate to develop our resources (yes, the empty oil reservoirs and pore storage areas ARE a resource). It makes good financial sense to be ready for this coming industry.
Pie in the sky, verifiable assets, Alaska does it best/good reputation: https://www.ktoo.org/gavel/video/?clientID=2147483647&eventID=2023031083&startStreamAt=4136&stopStreamAt=4271
Leasing State Land/Alaskans access to lands: https://www.ktoo.org/gavel/video/?clientID=2147483647&eventID=2023031083&startStreamAt=5142&stopStreamAt=5352
Forest Management: https://www.ktoo.org/gavel/video/?clientID=2147483647&eventID=2023031083&startStreamAt=5618&stopStreamAt=5693
Carbon Offset Discussion in Ways and Means Committee: