2050: Jeff Pollack – The Carbon Catcher

What is your job?
Chief Strategy and Sustainability Officer, Port of Corpus Christi. I oversee strategic planning, large-scale land-use decisions, and environmental functions such as regulatory permitting/compliance and proactive stewardship. I also work with customers and partners on world-scale hydrogen production for export, plus centralized infrastructure for the use and storage of captured carbon.

How are you helping cool the planet through your work?
As the largest energy port in the country by revenue tonnage, we aim to diversify our energy cargos. By leveraging our maritime infrastructure, our deep ship channel, and our extensive and growing wind and solar generation, we are fostering world-scale hydrogen production. We hope to cut its price point to scale, to help spark investment in consumer infrastructure through public and private sector collaboration, at every link in the hydrogen production value chain. We are also researching ways to use captured carbon in new products like synthetic fuels and green concrete, and to permanently store carbon deep underground on Port property. We will start with up to three million tons of CO2 per year. But this will become orders of magnitude more.

What most surprised you about your job?
The pace of change in the energy marketplace. Synergies are emerging well beyond what I dreamed of even six months ago. We are working with very large energy companies, household names, who plan, within three years, to produce world-scale volumes of hydrogen, and to capture carbon emissions from this process. Today, they’re actively searching for places to store that carbon. I am connecting them with partners on the leading edge of geologic carbon storage. The level of technological sophistication and the pace of innovation give me hope.

What can we do to get more young people into public service?
Investing in work that affects positive change in communities. We have to right-size the valuation of public servants. The federal forgiveness of student loans (or the repayment of non-federal ones) for key sectors — if the program isn’t overly bureaucratic and unreliable — could help young professionals follow their hearts and consciences to work for change. Also, federally funded internship and practicum programs in key sectors would allow young professionals to work for organizations that could not otherwise afford to support them. Those of us doing work rooted in our convictions also need to make ourselves available as sounding boards and mentors.

Carolyn Whelan

Carolyn is a writer, editor and analyst who covers the nexus between business and social justice issues. She broke into journalism at the Rio Earth Summit where she interviewed Al Gore and environmental pioneer David Brower. Topics covered since then range from climate change and higher education costs to drugs pricing, geopolitical strife, business ethics, artificial intelligence, gene editing, alternative energy and the search for good jobs -- and innovation in all these areas. Her pieces, reported from Europe, the US and South America have appeared in Fortune, Newsweek, the International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal and SciAm.com. Previously she worked for the Economist Intelligence Unit, Barrons.com, Columbia Business School, WWF, the UN and PwC. Carolyn is fluent in French and Spanish and resides in Brooklyn.

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