“I don’t know if a company can have a soul, but I like to think it can. And if it can, then I’d like our soul to be an old soul — and everything that implies. I like to talk about things like values and soul. These things aren’t transient. These are things you build forever.” Bill Ford, Chair, Ford Motor Company
I first became aware of Bill Ford, grandson of the founder of the company and its current chair, when my friend, architect Bill McDonough, began to work with the company on its new River Rouge facility. The goal was to make the plant as “green” and energy efficient as possible, experimenting with building methods and materials even on down to the carpeting and curtains, making them almost edible, and certainly compostable. Bill Ford had recently dragged Ford Motor out of a large coalition of climate deniers. I was impressed with his vision and dedication.
But this week, Bill Ford came out against fuel standards for cars, supporting Trump’s effort to dismantle the money-saving, health-protecting, energy-independence-building program. What happened to Bill Ford’s soul?
A few days ago, Trump went to Detroit to announce a rollback of EPA’s Clean Car Standards — the fuel efficiency standards that guide car makers. Because of these standards, we save money by not having to make as many trips to the gas station; our cars, including SUVs, go further with each gallon of gas. These standards help push us to energy independence by reducing oil consumption. To top it off, these standards have helped clean up our air, protecting our health. Why would we want to put these protections into reverse gear?
Automakers complained about MPG standards, as they always complain about new protections—they also claimed business would be destroyed by seat belts; they also fought catalytic converters; they also hated the Clean Air Act. Yet, so far the investment in new, more efficient car and fuel technology has created hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
The Clean Car Standards, finalized in 2012, clearly didn’t harm his company’s profits. So where’s Bill Ford now? Was all his environmental concern over the River Rouge plant just a way to have fun with design?
I’m sickened by the complete lack of leadership in the auto industry in attacking climate pollution; this is an industry that has contributed a huge amount to the carbon buildup in our atmosphere.
Why isn’t Ford standing up and saying: OK, we don’t like this way of regulating efficiency. But we do know that we are facing an urgent and destructive problem. So here’s our plan. Here’s what we will do to help cut climate pollution.
President Trump’s announcement about cars is just another step down his radical Path of Destruction. So far, this administration has not made a single constructive move in protecting the health and wellbeing of Americans. Trump is all about dismantle, deny, destroy: end health protections; stop talking about climate pollution; kill rules against fracking pollution; abolish the Chemical Safety Board; halt NASA work. He is proposing a budget that cripples the work of the Environmental Protection Agency—including killing the Energy Star program that saves us money on efficient appliances, killing clean-up of the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay, and many other programs that keep our air and water clean.
Reality, whether in business or love, science or politics, will eventually trump denial. Polluters and their political cronies can deny climate science, but climate systems will respond to our pollution. That’s why —in contrast to the auto industry — the world’s largest investment manager, BlackRock, responsible for $5 trillion of other people’s money, recently made the stunning announcement that “climate risk disclosure” would be one of a handful of priorities they would use to evaluate companies. This will not be ignored in top-floor executive suites.
Trump, Pence, Pruitt, Inhofe, the Koch Brothers and a legion of others are doing everything they can to confuse Americans about climate science—and to stop all progress against climate pollution. It is dispiriting, and infuriating, to watch corporate leaders bow down before this nonsense, and allow it to go unchallenged.
We are in a battle to protect our children’s future. Bill Ford has talked a good game about values—and I used to admire that. But talk is cheap. An old soul cares about the world we will leave behind for our children.Where’s Bill Ford’s soul now? Where is the corporate leadership we need? (Tweet this)
Photo: Ed Aldridge / Shutterstock.com