I started my internship last Monday, and WOW! I am meeting so many amazing people and learning all about carbon removal and climate policy. I can already tell that this is going to be an invaluable experience that will make me grow professionally and give me a glimpse into the environmental policy career field.
My first week mainly consisted of onboarding meetings, getting to know the Carbon180 team, and learning the basics of carbon removal pathways. One of my favorite aspects of Carbon180 is how they focus on all three aspects of successfully institutionalizing effective change: business, science, and policy. I hardly come across an organization that focuses on all three of these perspectives. I think that this makes Carbon180 unique and extremely successful with its work. Someone at Carbon180 described the work they do as a “translating science” for creating informed and effective carbon removal policy, which I found very interesting.
At the beginning of my second week, I received my carbon removal pathway I am going to research this summer, which is….drum roll please…. Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS)! From what I have learned so far from my research, CCUS focuses on processes that capture carbon from the source that is emitting carbon dioxide; the captured carbon is then either sequestered in the ground or transformed into a usable form such as plastic or cement. My final project for this internship is to create a policy recommendation regarding CCUS for Carbon180. I am currently researching the current state of CCUS at the federal policy level. I am also researching policy recommendations that have been suggested by Congress and other ENGOs regarding CCUS to ultimately propose an assessment of which policy recommendations Carbon180 should support.
I am also helping out with an environmental justice (EJ) project that Carbon180 is working on; Carbon180 is reaching out to EJ organizations and frontline communities to have discussions about CCUS to listen to their perspective and share their knowledge of carbon removal pathways. I was surprised at first to find out that many EJ organizations do not support CCUS. They are concerned that CCUS perpetuates our reliance on fossil fuels rather than focusing on transitioning to renewable energy sources. Some other concerns regarding CCUS are the risks of sequestering and transporting the carbon dioxide. There is a threat of triggering an earthquake from pumping immense amounts of carbon dioxide deep into the ground. Additionally, there are concerns for possible leakage during this process which may contaminate nearby drinking water sources. Although these are important risks to be aware of, they are not very common.
This week I also met my mentor Shuchi Talati, who is amazing! I can already tell from only one meeting that she is extremely knowledgeable from her extensive experience in the climate field. Shuchi has held a wide variety of roles in her life from working at the Union of Concerned Scientists to working in the senate to getting her doctorate at Carnegie Mellon University (again, go Steelers!). I am so excited for this relationship to blossom both professionally and personally.
This internship is going to be an incredible experience; I am already learning so much more about climate policy in two weeks than I ever could have expected. I am anxious to see where Carbon180 takes me next!