Inaction on global warming leaves ex-GM exec cold

Betsy Ancker-Johnson raised a warning flag 20 years ago, but George Eads says there wasn't much interest.
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George Eads says the first time he was jolted by the realization that global warming could threaten the planet - and the business-as-usual attitude of the auto industry - was about 20 years ago. At the time, he was chief economist at General Motors.

Betsy Ancker-Johnson, GM's chief environmental officer, had called about 200 GM executives and managers to the company's Tech Center in Warren, Mich., for a briefing on the subject.

As Eads recalls, the company brass didn't show much interest.

Industry executives and government officials still aren't showing enough interest, he contends.

Eads thinks emissions of greenhouse gases must be cut substantially from current levels, not just from the projected higher levels of the future.

He's now a vice president in the Washington office of Charles River Associates International, a Boston research and consulting firm.

He was the principal author of a 2004 report on sustainable mobility for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, an organization of 180 international companies.

The council report was sponsored by two oil companies, eight automakers and two suppliers. In an interview with Automotive News, Eads said the report did a pretty good job of laying out the challenge, if not the ways to meet it.

What is needed is "basically, totally redoing both the fuel and the vehicles over a 50-year or longer period," he said.

Ancker-Johnson, retired from GM, also remained active with the issue, serving on a National Research Council panel that in 2001 sought to answer basic climate science questions.

You may e-mail Harry Stoffer at hstoffer@crain.com

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