Episode #
2
Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Sarah Olexsak: Fueling a New, Cleaner Era of Mobility

In this Episode
Sarah Olexsak
she/her
Manager, Transportation Electrification
Duquesne Light Company
Matt Scott
he/him
Manager, Storytelling & Engagement
“Pick an area of climate solutions that you are particularly interested in... The more that you learn about all of the different pieces, the more that you'll be able to identify where you want to fit in and the different levers that you can pull to influence change.”
In this Episode
Sarah Olexsak
she/her
Manager, Transportation Electrification
Duquesne Light Company
Matt Scott
he/him
Manager, Storytelling & Engagement

Sarah’s Story

Pittsburgh is known for innovation, which includes a past based in extractive industries like coal mining and steel manufacturing, considered cutting edge at the time. With climate change, it is clear that it is time to embrace new and emerging innovations, including clean energy technologies that are a smart investment in our shared future. And since gasoline and diesel transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., there is a tremendous opportunity for electric vehicles as a solution to the climate crisis. Sarah Olexsak, the senior manager of transportation electrification for Duquesne Light Company, the electric distribution company serving Southwest Pennsylvania, is part of charting a new path for Pittsburgh to electrify transportation. Sarah’s drive to be part of climate solutions are inspired by the generations before; her great grandfather worked in the coal mines, and her grandfather and father in the steel industry. Now Sarah’s career in electric vehicles continues her family’s value for innovation as Pittsburghers, this time, building toward a world that achieves drawdown.

Discussion Questions

One of the most important things you can do when it comes to climate change is talk about it.

  • The energy sector is an exciting and massive area of opportunity for climate solutions, especially when it comes to clean transportation. As of 2019, transportation accounts for a larger share of greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector in the United States. Sarah’s work at Duquesne Light Company is to educate and engage people in the transition from gasoline-powered vehicles to electric vehicles. She helps customers install electric charging stations at their homes and businesses, and in the community. What are the benefits of electric vehicles and how are they a climate solution? Where have you seen electric vehicle charging stations and infrastructure in your community? 

  • Sarah’s family members, like many people in the Pittsburgh area, have been employed in the coal and steel industries. Of Slovakian heritage, Sarah’s family immigrated to the United States. Her great grandfather worked in the coal mines, and her grandfather and father worked in the steel industry. Each had a wish for the next generation to have a better life. Now, Sarah is working with electric vehicles. Sarah’s family history is a living example of Pittsburgh’s past and evolution into a clean energy future. In what ways can you be part of creating a better world for generations who will come after you? In your wildest dreams, what is a cool innovation or new technology that doesn’t yet exist, that you would like to see to help solve climate change?

  • Sarah recalls how an environmental ethics class in college sparked her desire to care about climate change and to be part of solutions. The class helped her realize the moral obligation that all of us have to protect the environment and preserve our natural resources. What inspires you to care about protecting the people and places you love? 

  • In Pittsburgh, we are not afraid to embrace our past, because it is part of our story, which demonstrates our value for innovation and investing in advances in new technologies in energy and manufacturing that have created a strong economic opportunity. In order to create a better future, it is important to acknowledge that the coal and steel industries are part of our value for innovation, and with that evolution, there are now better ways to create economic opportunity while also advancing cleaner technologies that are solutions to climate change. How can we acknowledge Pittsburgh’s history in extractive industries, which have played a role in creating climate change, while also helping to transition to a clean energy future that helps to draw down our emissions?

  • Sarah’s advice for being part of climate solutions, is to “immerse yourself in the issue, get to know the issue, the causes, consequences, and solutions, find a climate solution that you feel passionate about, be curious about learning more, and find ways to get involved.” The more that you learn, the more you will be able to identify where you fit in. What questions do you have about climate change? Can you explain the causes, consequences, and solutions? What is a solution that you feel passionate about, and how can you start the process of learning more about it?

Learn More

Learn about the solutions in this story.

Explore Climate Solutions 101, the world's first major educational effort focused solely on solutions. This video series combines Project Drawdown’s trusted resources with the expertise of inspiring voices from around the world: drawdown.org/climate-solutions-101.

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