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By year’s end, Dr. Mukwege had treated hundreds of survivors and their numbers kept growing.

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Deep in the heart

I’m in Texas to see the future

The Lone Star State is showing the world how to power a clean tomorrow.

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Hello from Texas! I’m in Corpus Christi and Houston this week to meet with some of the remarkable innovators building America’s clean energy future. It’s going to be a great trip.

If you want to see what the cutting edge of next-gen clean energy innovation looks like, it’d be hard to find a place better than Texas. Amazing companies are breaking ground not just here in Southeast Texas but across the state. Each one represents a huge boon for the local economy, America’s energy security, and the fight against climate change.

The world is undergoing an energy transition right now, fueled by the development and deployment of new clean energy technologies. The pace of innovation at the heart of this transition is happening faster than many people (including me!) dared hope. The progress makes me optimistic about the future—and excited about the role that American communities will play, especially in places like Texas. Breakthrough Energy and I have invested more than $130 million into Texas-based entrepreneurs, institutions, and projects. It’s a big bet, but it’s one I’m confident in.

Why? Because of the people. Nearly half a million Texans work in the oil and gas industry, and their skills are directly transferrable to next-generation industries. This workforce will help form the backbone of the world’s new clean energy economy, and it will cement Texas’s energy leadership for generations to come.

Many of the companies I’m seeing on this trip already employ or plan to employ oil and gas workers. One of those companies is Infinium, which is working on next-generation clean fuels for trucks, ships, and even planes. I’m visiting their first demonstration plant in Corpus Christi, where they’re turning waste CO2 and renewable energy into electrofuels—or eFuels—for trucks. They’ve already signed a deal with Amazon, and sometime soon, if you live in the area, you might get a delivery supported by Infinium eDiesel.

The key to Infinium’s approach is that their fuels can be dropped into existing engines. That’s huge. It means that companies won’t have to adapt their fleets, removing one of the biggest hurdles to transitioning to a new fuel. I’m especially excited about the work they’re doing on sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF—which could reduce emissions from air travel by as much as 90 percent, according to company estimates. Infinium is in the process of converting an old gas-to-liquid plant in West Texas into a new facility that will increase the company’s capacity for producing eFuels ten-fold. Breakthrough Energy’s Catalyst program has invested in this first-of-its-kind plant, and I can’t wait to see it when it’s done.

Another company I’ll see is Mars Materials. They’re a Breakthrough Energy Fellows project working on a different way to reuse CO2. The company is developing a clever technique for turning captured carbon into one of the key components in carbon fiber, an ultra-light, ultra-strong material that is used in everything from clothing to car frames. (If you’ve never played pickleball with a carbon fiber racket, I recommend trying it—you won’t believe how much power you get with your shots!) The Mars Materials team relocated from California to Texas in part because of the skilled oil and gas talent that they could access in the state, and they aren’t the first Breakthrough Energy company to do that. I’m going to check out their lab, where their scientists are hard at work optimizing the conversion process.

Both of the companies I just mentioned are turning CO2 into useful products. Their business models assume that they’ll have access to lots of carbon. Fortunately for them, Texas is also in the process of becoming a capital for direct air capture. DAC is the process of removing carbon directly from the air. The captured carbon can either be sequestered underground or reused by companies like Infinium and Mars Materials. A recent study found that Texas has the greatest DAC deployment potential in the country and could create as many as 400,000 jobs by 2050.

DAC is the fire extinguisher of clean energy technologies: It’s something you hope you will never need but should have ready if (and when) you do. In an ideal world, we’d adopt clean energy quickly enough that we wouldn’t need to remove carbon from the air. In reality, that hasn’t happened. We already have decades of legacy emissions that we’ll need to clean up, so we need a significant DAC industry.

During my visit, I’ll meet with local business and community leaders involved in the development of a DAC Hub in Kingsville, Texas. The Hub is the brainchild of Occidental’s 1PointFive, and over the next five years, it will bring an estimated 2,500 jobs to the community. I was an early investor in direct air capture technology, and it’s super cool to see it evolve from a concept to real economic opportunity for a local community.

The DAC project has been selected to receive a grant from the Department of Energy as a result of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Having been involved in some of the early discussions of the clean energy bills a couple years ago, I’m amazed to see how much progress has been made since then—and eager to meet with the people moving it forward. The DAC Hubs are a perfect example of how innovation can and should work. Private investors take on risks in developing cutting-edge innovations, which are then scaled up through a mix of public and private investments.

It’s going to be an exciting couple of days. I’m looking forward to catching up with leaders from many of the Breakthrough Energy-supported companies based in the area. I’ll talk about the tremendous potential I see in clean industries at CERAWeek, one of the biggest annual energy conferences in the United States. I’m also going to learn more about the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub being developed in the area, and I’ll tour Air Liquide’s hydrogen facility in the town of La Porte. Their plant uses steam methane reforming to generate hydrogen fuel for industry, and it will be retrofitted in the coming years to eliminate its emissions. (As I’ve written before, hydrogen will play a key role in the energy transition.)

All the companies I’ll see in Texas this week are at the heart of the energy transition. They’re driving innovation, bringing good jobs to their communities, and boosting the American economy. If you want to catch a glimpse of our country’s clean energy future, you should head on down to the Lone Star State.