Comments from General Motors Vice Chairman Robert Lutz calling global warming "a total crock" sparked a storm on the Web, prompting Lutz to ask outsiders to judge GM on its actions, not his words.
A report from D Magazine dated January 30 quoted Lutz saying that global warming is a "total crock of ****." And "I'm a skeptic, not a denier. Having said that, my opinion doesn't matter...I'm motivated more by the desire to replace imported oil than by the (carbon dioxide argument)." The statements were later verified by a GM spokesperson who was at the meeting where he said it.
The comments drew so much ire that Lutz wrote a blog, which he posted Thursday defending what he said was his personal view and not that of GM.
"General Motors is dedicated to the removal of cars and trucks from the environmental equation, period. And, believe it or don't: So am I! It's the right thing to do, for us, for you and, yes, for the planet. My goal is to take the automotive industry out of the debate entirely. GM is working on just that--and we're going to keep working on it--via E85, hybrids, hydrogen, and fuel cells, and the electrification of the automobile," he wrote.
The incident highlights how highly charged consumers get because of climate change concerns. But it also sheds light on the pragmatic position many businesses have taken on the subject.
Companies are aware that consumers want environmentally conscious products, as sales of hybrid cars have shown. Corporations are responding, at times resorting to.
Even while some consumers are passionate about conservation, other people care about cutting down on imported oil for political reasons. And finally, the third major reason people advocate cleaner energy and fuels is high energy prices.
These three factors--climate change, high energy prices, and energy security--are driving a major economic shift toward clean energy, said Daniel Yergin, the chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), at a speech on Monday. He said that renewable power and biofuels could represent 16 percent of energy consumption by 2030.
CERA is very closely tied to the incumbents in the giant energy industry--oil and gas companies and power producers.
They are far from being the only incumbent industrial firms to pursue environmentally friendly products, but when GM and CERA say that clean technologies are the way of the future, that's a strong indication that it's more than just window dressing.