William Clay Ford, Jr., Ford Motor Company's executive chairman of the board of directors and great-grandson of Henry Ford, gave a speech about sustainability at University of Michigan Tuesday last night (Nov. 13). The hour-long speech, which included an introduction from the University president, a short film and a Q&A, focused primarily on Ford's efforts to create a more sustainable future. You can watch the entire speech online, if you have version 10 of Windows Media Player.
I detail the entire speech below but the interesting parts, I think, were when Bill said he was a "crazy radical" that championed green things for years then, in the Q&A, he basically refused to take a question on the CAFE debate. Also interesting is the leak from Bill that Ford Field (home of the Detroit Lions) will hold the first carbon neutral NFL game and Ford is creating an advisory panel with people like Amory Lovins.

The speech starts with an introduction by the University president that highlighted green things being done at the school and Ford's legacy of environmentalism. University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman said Henry Ford was an environmentalist before it was cool and Ford is working in partnership with the University of Michigan on sustainable transport. Mary then introduced Bill Ford who showed a film, like Al Gore he joked, before beginning his speech.

The film, which Bill said would not win him a Nobel, mentions Ford has five million flex fuel vehicles on the road, that the company made the first hybrid SUV, that Ford is studying plug-ins, developing fuel cell vehicles and is working on making its factories cleaner. After the movie, Bill talked about his great-grandfather's environmentalism saying things like the Model T could use ethanol, Henry Ford developed soybean auto parts and said that in the future, fuels would come from things like fruits, sawdust and potatoes.

Go below the fold more.

[Source: Michigan Daily]
Bill continued by talking about more recent things Ford has done. Bill said problems like pollution were not issues until the decades after WWII and that in the early '60s Ford created a two-seat electric car in the UK; in the mid-'60s, a sodium sulfur battery; in 1979, the first hybrid van; in 1981, fleets of alternative fuel vehicles; and, in the '90s, Ford held a 95 percent share of the alternative fuels market. Some of these efforts were prompted by new regulations (fuel economy, safety, and emissions) in the '70s.

Bill said that in the '70s, he was a big environmentalist and almost did not join Ford because of his beliefs. When he joined, the company wanted him to end his affiliation with environmental groups. Bill said he was thought of as a "crazy radical" in those days but he has long held beliefs and he knew it would be important to business someday. Bill said he has been active and interested in greening Ford, speaking about it for 20 years but has not seen much response, not even when he spoke about the environment five years ago.

Bill then leaked the information about the NFL's first carbon neutral game which will be held at Ford Field in Detroit. He jokes that he doesn't think that has been made official yet. Bill name drops Bill McDonough when talking about Ford Rouge Center, the world's largest brownfield reclamation project. Bill then talked about things the company is doing today like creating powerful, cleaner-burning turbo engines, lighter cars and he promises to double the number of flex fuel vehicles from Ford in just a few years. Bill said people are shocked when he tells them about all this and that they ask him to be more vocal.

Bill said we need a national energy policy and that we need to have a national discussion. Bill said the industry is not made up of "Neanderthals" from the "Rust Belt" and said he recognized many of Ford's people in the audience and asked them to stand. Finally, Bill ended the speech by mentioning the formation of an advisory panel with people like Amory Lovins. Then the Q&A began.

The first question asked Ford to support public transport and lower unemployment. Bill talked about venture capital in Michigan, said they had projects in other countries that focused on public transport and he said things were happening here like car sharing. The second question asked what Ford could do about ethanol. Bill said he could only make the cars and he expected more would be done with cellulosic ethanol.

Bill was then asked about CAFE, but basically refused to take the question. Bill said there were a lot of issues like "harmonic averages" that he did not want to detail. The next question asked would cars be boring like they were for the twenty years after the energy crisis in the seventies. Bill tells a story about a car that could not even drive up a hill and said he supported things that were not trade offs.

There were two more questions on ethanol with one asking about the impact on food and exploitation of farmers. Bill said Ford has a code of ethics, maybe the first in the industry, and they try to drive it to the supply base but they don't control fuel. Bill said he knows food ethanol is just a stop-gap measure and that vehicle penetration will hit a wall if we don't develop other sources of ethanol.

There was also a question asking what Ford could do to stop wars in Iraq and all over the world which Bill said he will do the best he can to make better vehicles and that it may change things. There was a mention of clean coal doing its part as well and then the last question was on leadership and can electric cars be sexy. Bill dodged the electric car sexy question and said it would take more than the auto industry but that was not a cop out.

Tell us what you think of this speech in comments.


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