A Way Forward for US Auto Blues and the Climate: Ford and Chevron?

As the US auto industry faces its darkest days yet, one of the big three, Ford, stands apart from GM and Chrysler. Besides not needing the amount of government cash to prevent bankruptcy, Ford has a different story to tell.

Ford’s Executive Chairman Bill Ford tried when he was CEO (2001 to 2006) to move the behemoth toward the 21st century with everything from more sustainable manufacturing in the form of the US Green Building Council LEED certified Rouge River Plant in Detroit, to the introduction of an electric prototype and an SUV hybrid, the Escape. Hydrogen fuel cell research also increased significantly during his CEO tenure.



Bill Ford stepped down from his CEO office after poor short term financial performance and shareholders revolted against his green agenda. Ford, grandson of the firm’s founder, kept pushing the company and the US auto industry to move toward an electric fleet. He has met with Barack Obama during the campaign and after Obama’s election, looking at a long term horizon of climate change regulations and oil price and supply volatility.  

Then there’s the GM Hummer. It follows that GM’s vice chairman this year insultingly denied the existence of global climate change. Chrysler has also ignored changing consumer desires for higher fuel efficiency and continued putting out gas-guzzling dinosaurs

On the energy side of the equation, Chevron has come out with a surprising advertising campaign advocating that people drive less, and provides tips on how to use less gas. They also feature articles and discussions on coming energy problems, including oil supply challenges.

Advising people to drive less is a tact that not even any major politicians were brave enough to take during the campaign season when gas prices broke $4 a gallon, which was partially because of the inability of global supplies to keep up with growing oil demand.  

Now a worldwide recession has cut demand for gas, and oil and gas price outrage has come way down. Yet Chevron is continuing its clever campaign. That’s smart, not only because of worsening global climate change, but also because The International Energy Agency and the CEO of Shell have said this year that oil prices will go up again in the future as supplies will not be able to keep pace with new (post-recovery) demand.

Looks like two American corporations are truly thinking about the future beyond their own balance sheets, and we all may benefit from it.