GM wants to go green, CEO says in S.F. speech
General Motors, the nation's largest automaker, is working to reinvent itself as a green company but still opposes California's efforts to set its own global warming emissions standards for cars, Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner said Thursday in San Francisco.
In a speech before the Commonwealth Club, Wagoner touted his company's efforts to design and sell cars powered by electricity or alternative fuels.
GM will have eight different hybrid vehicles on the market by the end of the year and plans to start selling its Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid in 2010, he said. The company is testing sport utility vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel cells. And Thursday morning, before Wagoner's speech, GM announced that it would invest in a cellulosic ethanol startup trying to make fuel from nongrain plants.
"Going forward, the auto industry can no longer rely almost exclusively on oil," Wagoner said.
But on some issues, he said, GM and California still don't see eye to eye.
California is locked in a bitter fight with the Bush administration over the state's attempts to set its own limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars, limits that would force automakers to dramatically increase the fuel efficiency of their vehicles. The automakers oppose letting states set such limits, arguing that it would create a patchwork of conflicting regulations throughout the country.
Wagoner repeated that position Thursday, saying the entire country should stick with the new fuel mileage standard created by Congress and President Bush last year. That standard requires an increase in fuel economy to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, far less than the 44 miles per gallon that California officials want.
"By fragmenting our efforts, we will only make it that much harder to achieve the results we all want to see," he said. Later, he added, "If we think it's something we just can't do, we have to say it."
Earlier in the day, GM announced that it would invest in ethanol start-up Mascoma Corp., which is based in Boston and funded by several Silicon Valley venture capital firms. GM invested in another biofuel company, Coskata Inc. of Warrenville, Ill., in January.
GM and Mascoma did not reveal the size of the automaker's investment.
"We want to learn as much about the opportunities in cellulosic ethanol as we can," Wagoner said, at a press conference after his speech. "Just to be clear, what we have no interest in is becoming a fuel producer. ... But we do have an interest in seeing cellulosic ethanol develop."
Also... Watch an 11 minute video interview with ABC 7 News in San Francisco.