Friday, May 26, 2006

The Snake Pit

About a month ago, Ford Motor Co. offered buyers the opportunity to neutralize their carbon-dioxide emissions by signing up with a carbon-offset company called TerraPass.

Deals like this are inevitably riskier for the smaller, greener firm; Ford has much less credibility to lose, in terms of its customer base, than TerraPass does. And because of the high visibility of this deal, there's a sense in which TerraPass is putting the overall credibility of such partnerships on the line.

Sad to say, things aren't going too well. Triple Pundit explains:

Ford is a donor to the Competitive Enterprise Institute who recently produced a series of bizarre advertisements that essentially claim CO2 induced global warming is a hoax. Terrapass (who has an excellent blog by the way) promptly called them on it. Stating publically that nothing short of a wholesale dismissal of the ads and a public withdrawl of support to CEI would be the appropriate response from Ford.
Niel Golightly, Ford's Director of Sustainable Business Strategies responds:
For the record, Ford did NOT fund these ads. More importantly, we most definitely do NOT agree with their content.
Not good enough, by any means. TerraPass is exactly right; Ford should publicly repudiate CEI and withdraw all funding. Issuing palliative boilerplate to pressure groups, while funding a massive disinformation project like CEI - from whose skywide forehead monsters of venality like Michael Fumento were hatched - is textbook greenwashing. And while TerraPass seems to have faith in Golightly, I'm pretty skeptical about the bona fides of a guy who makes cutesy comments like
'CO2 is life'?! Criminy, even we liberal arts majors know that’s bogus.
Whoa...this dude is totally one of us. I'm surprised he didn't quote some Belle and Sebastian lyrics to drive the point home.

Golightly says:
Major players like GE, DuPont, Shell, BP, Duke Energy, Goldman Sachs and many others including, yes, Ford Motor Company, are feverishly working on what it will take to be compeitive in a carbon-constrained economy. And they know the day is coming when customers will reject brands that aren’t part of solving the problem.
They also hope to postpone that day indefinitely by exploiting the idealism of firms like TerraPass on the one hand, and funding denialist disinformation on the other.

It's good that TerraPass is putting pressure on Ford, and I hope something comes of it. A better approach, for any future groups who wish to risk their credibility in order to improve an automaker's market share, would be to make defunding CEI - and the incestuous snake pit of think-tanks to which it belongs - a condition of partnership.

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