Ford to Reduce Auto Emissions 30 Percent

April 10, 2008

Hoping to placate its increasingly vocal critics – both in the environmental movement and in government – Ford Motor Co. is pledging to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide by 30 percent by 2020.

The move comes as the auto industry, and Detroit makers, in particular, are under pressure to sharply improve fuel economy. Last year, Congress authorized an increase to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, so Ford’s promise effectively mirrors those new rules. There is a near one-to-one correlation between fuel consumption and the production of CO2, a prime culprit in global warming.

Nonetheless, Ford’s announcement is being given a warm reception, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press. The paper notes that a coalition of shareholder activist groups, including the Connecticut state treasurer, have declared Ford’s announcement a “first” among U.S. corporations, and something they hope to use to pressure changes by other among manufacturers. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, for one, plans to press a resolution that would require a similar pledge from General Motors Corp.

Some skeptics question the depth of Ford’s commitment, however. During the tenure of former CEO Jacques Nasser, the automaker announced its “25-in-5” program, which was intended to improve mileage 25 percent over a five-year period – and thus reduce CO2 emissions by a similar amount. Following Nasser’s departure, and shortly before the 25-in-5 deadline, Ford’s former product development chief, Phil Martins, revealed that the program had been scrapped.

On the other hand, Ford has taken an aggressive role in other environmental areas. It was the first of Detroit’s Big Three to introduce a true hybrid-electric vehicle, and has been expanding that lineup with models such as the 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid. And its newest U.S. assembly line, in Dearborn, Michigan, features an array of environmentally-friendly technologies. The roof of the plant, for example, is covered in greenery meant to reduce rainfall overflow, while also stabilizing factory temperatures, which means less need for heating and cooling.

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