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Can We Bury CO2 In North Dakota Prairie?

Not long ago, the North Dakota prairie hid missiles that were key weapons during the Cold War. Now, it's a proving ground for a new high-tech attack on global warming.

A partnership that includes Minnesota corporations and state agencies is testing whether it can pump carbon dioxide -- the key pollutant linked to climate change -- deep into the ground. That would not only remove it from the atmosphere, but also free up inaccessible oil and gas deposits.

Winning crucial federal money last month, the "Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership" is part of a nearly $300 million program underway in three regions of North America.

Together they constitute the largest experiment in the world to capture carbon dioxide produced by power plants and other major sources and seal it away underground, perhaps for thousands of years.

"The primary goal of the whole project is to find a way to put the CO2 in a place where the cork's in the bottle," said Gerry Groenewold, director of the Energy and Environment Research Center at the University of North Dakota.

Meanwhile, researchers in Minnesota, backed by nearly $500,000 approved by the Legislature this year, have determined that limited underground carbon dioxide storage may be possible here. But more promising is the prospect of "storing" carbon in stems, trunks and leaves by planting more trees, grasses and cover crops and restoring wetlands.

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