Inside Salk Q&A With John Hess
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Inside Salk Q&A With John Hess

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Inside Salk Magazine

John Hess is the CEO of Hess Corporation, a global independent energy company. He and his company are generous supporters of Salk’s Harnessing Plants Initiative (HPI). Learn more about his commitment to plant science research and why it’s so important to him and his company.

What prompted you to support HPI?

Addressing climate change is the greatest scientific undertaking of the 21st century.  The world faces a dual challenge of needing approximately 20 percent more energy by 2040 and reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. In the International Energy Agency’s rigorous Sustainable Development Scenario, which assumes that all the pledges of the Paris Agreement are met, oil and gas will be 40 percent of the energy mix in 2040 compared with approximately 53 percent today. In the IEA’s newest Net Zero Emissions Scenario, oil and gas will still be 29 percent of the energy mix in 2040. In either scenario, oil and gas will be needed for decades to come. The energy transition is going to take a long time, cost a lot of money and require innovative solutions that do not exist today. For sustainable development, we need climate literacy, energy literacy and economic literacy.

HPI is a potential gamechanger in tackling the challenge of climate change—after all, mother nature has been capturing and storing carbon since the beginning of time. In fact, there is more carbon stored in the soil than in the atmosphere.

We are inspired by the HPI team’s groundbreaking work and honored to support them every step of the way.

In addition to your support of HPI, your company donated $3 million in March to establish the endowed Hess Chair in Plant Science at Salk. Why were you and your company inspired to make this gift?

We established the endowed chair to recognize the contributions of outstanding plant scientists, and were thrilled that Salk Professor Wolfgang Busch was named the first holder. He and Professor Joanne Chory—co-directors of HPI—have provided visionary leadership to a team of brilliant scientists dedicated to harnessing plants to store potentially gigatons of carbon emissions.

Why is it important to you for the HPI team and Salk to recruit talented researchers?

HPI is a remarkable, world-class team of researchers and staff—some of the best and brightest in the world. The team will need to continue expanding to implement their scientific breakthroughs on a global scale in order to play a key role in achieving the world’s ambition to get to net zero emissions.

What do you hope HPI can accomplish with your support?

The scientific advancements by Salk’s plant science team have the potential to make a significant impact in addressing the global challenge of climate change.

Learn more about Hess’ support of the Salk Institute Harnessing Plants Initiative:

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