Ford self-imposes global warming plan

Published July 1, 2001

The Ford Motor Company in a May 3 corporate citizen report announced it has created an executive team to find ways for Ford to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the report, Ford chairman William Clay Ford Jr. said global warming is of special concern “because of its potentially serious consequences and its direct relationship to our industry.” Added president and chief executive Jacques Nasser, “There’s no doubt that sufficient evidence exists to move from argument to action.”

Central to Ford’s greenhouse emissions strategy is its plan to improve fuel efficiency in its sports utility vehicles. Ford noted it will take a variety of other actions, as well.

Jerry Taylor, director of natural resource studies at the Cato Institute, wondered if increasing SUV fuel efficiency would play well with American consumers. Taylor noted many SUV purchasers head large families. Increasing fuel efficiency invariably leads to smaller, lighter vehicles that are not as crashworthy as their larger cousins. For many large families concerned with auto safety, it is worth paying a few more cents per mile for safer sports utility vehicles, observed Taylor.

Ford’s decision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions comes as a surprise to many industry analysts because Ford opposed and still opposes the Kyoto Protocol. Nevertheless, in rejecting Kyoto’s extreme terms while proposing alternative environmental programs, Ford’s stance on greenhouse gas emissions is consistent with its position on other environmental issues.

For example, while opposing heightened corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) requirements, Ford has indicated it may favor alternative fuel economy programs. Other auto makers typically prefer to scuttle fuel economy talks altogether.

Rural Americans in particular have taken note of Ford’s recent embracement of left-environmental issues. Citing Ford’s significant contributions to such organizations as Earthwatch and the Audubon Society, many Ford owners are switching allegiance to other manufacturers. Stated Fred Grau in a letter to Ford Motor Company, “Our family-owned farm business will never again purchase a Ford product. Even if Ford decides to back off from funding those whose goal it is to destroy rural industries and communities, in our case it is too late.”

Ford’s position on greenhouse gas emissions is likely to further alienate environmental centrists if it is not presented as a balanced approach to the global warming issue.