Is that climate change egg all over Ford's face?

Ford: Have you contributed to global warming skeptics, lately?


Andrew Leonard
May 18, 2006 11:48PM (UTC)

Two days ago, Bill Ford, CEO of the Ford Motor Co., wrote a letter to Al Gore complimenting him on his new movie about the threat of global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth."

"I am proud," wrote Ford, "that we were the first automotive company to acknowledge publicly the importance of climate change to our business, the first to issue a report on the impact of climate change on our business, and the first to articulate climate stabilization as an appropriate strategic goal."

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That's nice, Bill. Then why does your company continue to fund the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank dedicated to opposing any governmental effort to tackle the problem of climate change. CEI detests environmental regulations of all kinds, but it bears a special animus against what it likes to call "global warming alarmists." In fact, CEI announced yesterday that it is producing two television spots to run in markets where "An Inconvenient Truth" is about to open, "focusing on the alleged global warming crisis and the calls by some environmental groups and politicians for reduced energy use."

The news of the TV spots, combined with a Bloomberg report noting that Ford is one of CEI's longtime funders, has caused what one Ford employee called a "lively debate" to break out within the company. Indeed, Ford rushed to reassure reporters that yes, it does take climate change seriously. In a statement provided this morning, the company said, "Ford has supported many Competitive Enterprise Institute initiatives over the years. But we do not support the national ad campaign on global warming CEI announced today."

Josh Gottheimer, director of strategic communications at Ford, acknowledged that Ford continues to fund CEI, though he said the company does not release dollar figures of its contributions to nonprofits. "We support them on certain issues," said Gottheimer, "but we do not agree with them on global warming."

Again, that's nice. And sure, we're willing to believe that Bill Ford is worried about climate change. And we applaud Ford's recently announced partnership with carbon offset provider Terrapass, which allows purchasers of new Ford vehicles to assuage their global warming guilt by funneling funds toward renewable energy and carbon sequestration efforts.

But Ford can't get off the hook that easily. There should be a price to pay for getting in bed with the likes of CEI: Public shaming and humiliation is a good place to start.

CEI is part of a network of think tanks funded by corporations specifically to wage war against any and all government regulation of business. Thwarting environmental regulation is front-and-center on their to-do list. Global warming, of course, is the No. 1 environmental issue in the world today. Global warming has been a CEI hobbyhorse for years. To try to split the difference and say, "We support them on some things, but not on this issue," just doesn't fly.

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Again, one does feel some sympathy for the Ford employees who are just learning today who CEI is and what it does. But we're also heartened at their obvious consternation, because it's a sign that maybe, just maybe, the wheels are beginning to fall off the CEI propaganda train. Can Bill Ford honestly want to keep funneling dollars to the producers of a television spot that says, "Carbon dioxide: They call it pollution, we call it life"?

There's only one way for Ford to make itself look good. And that's to promise to never again give another dollar to CEI. You can't have your global warming cake and eat it too.


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Environment Global Warming Globalization How The World Works

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