Today in New West news: carbon capture, Butte tech company researching carbon nanotube bulletproof vests, Crow historian Elias Goes Ahead dies, and WY lawmakers propose mandatory Native American studies.
Carbon capture—grabbing, by mechanical or chemical means, carbon dioxide from plants before it goes into the atmosphere—has been an industry dream for decades, with inside reps and lawmakers pushing it as a viable means of fighting climate change. As of writing, however, the practice is unfeasible on a commercial scale and its purported benefits are unproven.
However, according to the Casper Star Tribune, a new report from a 14-state working group, started by the governors of Wyoming and Montana, has outlined some ways government assistance could spur development of carbon capture tech:
“Putting the Puzzle Together: State and Federal Policy Drivers for Growing America’s CO2-EOR Industry,” suggests expanding federal tax incentives on carbon capture, stabilizing the way carbon dioxide is priced and allowing projects more access to funding.
Enhanced oil recovery, or EOR, is a catchall term for the third stage of producing oil. After initial measures are exhausted, carbon dioxide can be used to take more oil out of a well. Producers can use captured carbon dioxide emissions, particularly from power plants, to offset some of the cost of installing emissions capture technology. But it’s still costly.
Without incentives, the entire process of harnessing emissions, transporting and selling them, and using them in the oil patch may cost more money than it creates, reducing interest from private investors, the study says. States are recommended to develop their own incentives as well.
Cost has historically been an issue for carbon capture, and it is more relevant now with low oil prices, said Rob Godby, director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming.
Using carbon capture and enhanced oil recovery together is necessary to offset costs, he said.
“Carbon capture is so expensive to do otherwise, just stuffing (carbon dioxide) in the ground, that actually is an additional expense,” he said. “The hope is that (carbon dioxide) used for various uses, would reduce the net cost of carbon capture.”
Wyoming already has a number of incentives in line with the report’s recommendations, including a tax exemption on property used for pollution control. Although carbon dioxide sequestration may not meet those parameters in the future for the state’s Revenue Department, the study states.
Also in a cyclical guideline, Wyoming producers can decrease the amount of severance taxes owed on oil recovery by discounting taxes paid on carbon dioxide used in enhanced oil recovery.
Groups like the Wyoming Outdoor Council, a conservation group, see the benefit of the capture-recovery system, said Dan Heilig, senior conservation advocate.
“We support the use of carbon dioxide for ancillary recovery, he said. “I don’t see any downside to that; it makes a lot of sense. It can prolong production in fields that are already declining, that have already had their (environmental) impact in terms of ground disturbance.”
One possible use of captured carbon would be converting it into carbon nanotubes, hailed by some as a “miracle material” with various applications. Indeed, per the Billings Gazette, one Montana company is looking to make novel use of carbon nanotubes:
In October, Montana Tech announced that two of its faculty members, Dario Prieto and Jack Skinner, along with Ronda Coguill, testing director for the university’s Center for Advanced Mineral and Metallurgical Processing, will partner with Butte-based sp2nano to test a polymer for use in bulletproof vests.
The man behind sp2nano is Hugh Craig, who said his company and Colorado-based Oaks Technology are paying Tech $200,000 to test and prototype the material, which is composed of carbon nanotubes and a related material called graphene.
Craig said the two substances are ideal for bulletproof vests because they are simultaneously lightweight and strong – a rarity in the world of anti-ballistic materials.
“We expect that we are going to be twice as good, which means that we’ll weigh half as much as what the existing bulletproof vests weigh,” said Craig. “Existing bulletproof vests are limited to low-velocity bullets, such as pistols. High velocity bullets like an AK-47 and those things are not intercepted and stopped by (existing) bulletproof vests. Our goal is to try to make something that will stop that within the weight parameters that are existing right now.”
Keeping with Montana, according to the Gazette, Crow oral historian Elias Goes Ahead has passed away at the age of 56:
He was born in Crow Agency and named Ala’chi’wakii’ e`eh’cheesh,’ or Knows How to Pray. He grew up in Pryor, where he was a “tremendous” basketball player, Carlson Goes Ahead said.
Elias Goes Ahead was in one of the first classes to attend all four years at Plenty Coups High School after it was constructed in the 1970s.
Carlson Goes Ahead said his brother was quiet — a listener who would catalog everything he’d hear. Carlson Goes Ahead said that he learned these qualities from him.
“He was humble. He was eloquent. He was a statesman,” Carlson Goes Ahead said.
After attending Little Big Horn College, Elias Goes Ahead worked for the Crow Tribe Abandoned Mine Lands, Natural Resource and Tourism departments, as well as at Plenty Coups High School.
He was well-known as the Crow historian, whose knowledge of the people’s long history kept alive the history of the Billings area before white settlers arrived.
“Billings was a favorite camping spot for the Crow,” he told The Gazette in a 2012 interview. “It was a good defensive site because of the views. You could see the enemy coming.”
Besides history, Carlson Goes Ahead told the Gazette his brother was deeply involved in negotiating allottee leases for land parcels on the Crow Reservation. Crow Chariman Alvin “AJ” Not Afraid hailed Elias as “a pioneer in getting landowners together for landowner rights.”
Keeping with Native American history, according to the Casper Star Tribune, a group of Wyoming landmakers have introduced a bill calling for a statewide curriculum on the state’s Native American tribes:
The bill, commonly called Indian Education for All, was passed unanimously by the Select Committee on Tribal Relations last month. The bill would have the State Board of Education “consult and work with tribal governments” to develop education standards for teaching Wyoming students about the state’s Native American history, said Lander Republican Sen. Cale Case, the Senate chairman of the tribal relations committee.
Jason Baldes, a member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe and head of the Wind River Native Advocacy Center, said the bill has his organization’s full support. He said the group plans to bring roughly 50 members of the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes to Cheyenne to lobby for it this session.
He highlighted the importance of the bill in bringing Wyoming’s tribes into the state’s education.
“There isn’t a lot of curriculum of education in the state to learn about the Arapaho people,” he said. “And the result is a discrepancy … that results in racial tensions.”
State board of education chairman Pete Gosar said a bill that would give teachers a foundation to educate students about Native Americans is long overdue and is something he wishes he had when he was teaching.
“As a former social studies teacher, this is something in the state that’s really been missing,” he said. “They’ve been here first, and they’ve been here the longest. You do a disservice to all children in Wyoming — not just Wind River children but all children.”
If the bill is enacted, Case and co. expect (and welcome) sustained involvement from the state’s tribes for deciding and coordinating the curriculum.