Episode 165 - Geologists on TikTok?

Tomorrow Today - Episode 165.jpg

It might just be what we need to bring awareness to the game-changing opportunities of green collar jobs.

In the inaugural episode of our Sustainable Mobility Briefs, Frank Menchaca, President, Sustainable Mobility Solutions at SAE International, discusses the important role geologists—and many others—have to play in creating a responsible and sustainable EV battery ecosystem.

By creating awareness, we can support the transition to net-zero transportation while opening up EV battery and infrastructure job opportunities to people from all walks of life.

Meet Our Guest

President, Sustainable Mobility Solutions, SAE International

Frank Menchaca is President, Sustainable Mobility Solutions at SAE International, the oldest and largest technical organization for engineering in ground and air transportation. Frank incubated and developed SAE's work in sustainability and has also led the organization's product development, marketing, information publishing, professional learning, events and international business. Frank has a deep background in information products and served as Executive Vice President at Cengage Learning. Frank holds degrees from New York University and Yale University and is a candidate in the Chief Sustainability Officer certification program at MIT. A musician and artist, Frank has released ten records of original music under his own name and in the duo Hourloupe; his visual art practice includes painting and digital media.


Frank Menchaca:

The world of transportation is undergoing one of the most profound changes since its beginning: from fossil fuels to sustainable energy. This change affects everything that goes into getting people and things from one place to another. 

Let’s imagine for a moment that we had the ability to wave a wand and decree who can be a Tik Tok star in a way that helps us realize some grander goal. Each of us could probably come up with a pretty good of whom we’d choose but probably few would pick a geologist as the next super-nova of social media. Yet star geologists on Tik Tok might just be what we need to get a new generation of people interested in taking a role—a really important one potentially—in sustainable mobility.

We know the transportation industry accounts for about 27% of greenhouse gas emissions annually in the United States, about 25% globally. And we know those greenhouse gas emissions, GHGs—the stuff that causes global warming—come from the combustion of fossil fuels. And that’s why the transportation industry—and governments—worldwide are making a change to battery electric vehicles. 

Battery electric vehicles don’t produce any tailpipe emissions. But creating those batteries definitely emits GHGs in significant amounts. Minerals that go into batteries like Lithium are mined and mining has a large impact on the environment. It uses a lot of water and produces a lot of waste. You have to power a lot of equipment to dig out minerals and haul them away to be manufactured. 

So for electrification, of vehicles and nearly anything else with batteries, you have to have sustainable practices well upstream and make mining as responsible and as efficient as possible.

And here is where new geologist stars of Tik Tok stars might be able to help. We simply don’t have enough people, especially young people, interested or even aware of what an important role geologists—and many others—have to play in the new battery ecosystem that will help us get to net zero emission transportation.  

In 2021, the Department of Energy and representatives from the energy and transportation industries came together to form Li-Bridge, a public-private partnership to define the skills gap in domestic battery development. They projected as many as 300,000 new jobs will be created. These jobs will require the expected expertise of scientists and engineers and managers. The overwhelming need will be for technicians and workers, once referred to as blue collar, now called green collar: those responsible for front line manufacturing and machine supervision. Li-Bridge estimates this workforce will need to grow by 10x to meet demand.

This represents a set of game-changing opportunities: a chance for a new kind of greentech worker to be trained and certified. Our electric vehicle service equipment certification program—a partnership with L.A.-based Chargerhelp!—equips workers who aren’t usually thought of first for technical jobs: women, people without college degrees, and people from underserved areas. And our SAE EIT InnoEnergy Battery Academy—22 online courses for technicians and professionals—is there to do the same for batteries.

Think about that opportunity: hundreds of thousands of jobs for people from all parts of society to develop careers in growing areas. But we need to create awareness. And that’s why I was only being partially facetious when I waved a wand and hope to make geology cool—in a new way, for a new group of people ton contribute to an industry that will be critical how the planet does or doesn’t bend the curve of C02 emissions. 

At SAE we think about this every day in our mission to advance mobility knowledge and solutions for the benefit of humanity. For more information visit www.sms.sae.org.


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