Tinker Receives Energy Leadership Award from E&P Magazine

Tinker (1)
Scott Tinker

Scott Tinker, the director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, is the 2021 recipient of Exploration & Production magazine’s Energy Leadership Award.

The award recognizes Tinker’s tireless energy outreach. His recent efforts have focused on creating media – which includes two documentaries – that informs the general public about the role energy plays in their lives and those of others around the world.

“It’s always an honor and flattering to be recognized for things, but the reality is, I have a great team of people,” Tinker said. “So the award is for a cast of thousands.”

Tinker has a long career in the energy industry. He joined the Bureau, which is a research unit of The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences, as its director in 2000 after 17 years as a geologist in the oil and gas industry. Most of that time was spent at Marathon Oil’s research and technology center where Tinker worked as an advanced senior geologist.

During his time at the Bureau, Tinker has also served as president of a number of professional geological societies, including the Association of American State Geologists (AASG), American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), American Geosciences Institute (AGI), and Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies (GCAGS).

Tinker’s first documentary, Switch, focuses on the pros and cons of different types of energy around the world. Since its debut in 2012, it has been screened in 50 countries to more than 15 million viewers.

His second documentary, Switch On, was released in 2020 and explores how the lack of access to dependable and affordable sources of energy – a phenomenon known as energy poverty – affects communities around the world, and strategies to overcome it.

The films are available for free online to all thanks to the Switch Energy Alliance (SEA), a non-profit founded by Tinker in 2016 to promote science-based energy education. He said that his overall outreach goal is to go beyond conversations that characterize issues in energy as a binary choice.

“As geoscientists, we understand it takes non-renewable earth resources to drill for and produce oil and natural gas, and their extraction and use have real impacts on people, the environment and the economy. We also understand that non-renewable earth resources must also be mined to make panels and turbines to capture the sun and the wind, and to make batteries to store electricity, and that causes impacts too,” Tinker said. “That’s important to understand as we work to get [energy] access to people who don’t have much, or any.”

In addition to sharing Tinker’s films, SEA has helped produce a number of short videos for classroom use that explain basic energy concepts, and a five-minute movie, Energy Makes Our World, for museums. The movie is currently being played between large screen features at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and in its Wiess Energy Hall.

Tinker is also the voice of EarthDate, a weekly public radio segment that shares stories and facts about the planet. It is produced by the Bureau, sponsored by EarthX, and featured on more than 410 public radio stations in all 50 states.

Going forward, Tinker has more outreach projects planned. A PBS series, in which he will moderate discussions between recognized energy experts, is currently in the planning stages.

“I think it will be good to have a program that’s trying to go below the sound bite surface yet still be digestible for lots of people,” Tinker said.

In addition to his own projects, Tinker frequently serves as an expert source for reporters and as an event speaker. His 900 and counting global talks range from keynotes at professional events, to presentations on the basics of energy to primary school students, to board directors at major corporations, to testimony for the U.S. Senate.

“Scott is an excellent ambassador for the essential, but complex, world of energy,” said Jackson School Dean Claudia Mora. “The Energy Leadership Award is a wonderful recognition of his tireless efforts – from movies, to articles and talks – to educate the public and to inspire positive and engaging, fact-based discussion about the energy issues facing society now and in the future. Meeting the global demand for energy, while addressing the impacts of fossil fuel emissions, is a central challenge for our generation. I greatly appreciate Scott’s commitment to this issue.”

For more information, contact: Anton Caputo, Jackson School of Geosciences, 512-232-9623; Monica Kortsha, Jackson School of Geosciences, 512-471-2241.