Speaking at the IHS CERA Week energy conference last week, General Motors CEO Dan Akerson said that the United States is on the cusp of achieving long-term energy security thanks to the wide-scale availability of fuel-efficient vehicles, more energy-efficient homes and factories, as well as a revolution in domestic oil and gas production. The chief executive said that the time is now for a consumer-driven national energy policy and called upon President Obama to immediately designate a Blue ribbon Commission that would be tasked with developing a 30-year policy framework for energy security with progress reviews every five years.
Mr. Akerson said in order to have a true understanding of the changes and make them sustainable, the presidential commission would have to include a broad cross-section of energy producers and energy consumers, along with a straightforward charge to “Develop a plan to improve our standard of living by extending the duration of the natural gas and tight oil ‘dividend’ for as long as possible.”
“Everywhere you look there are opportunities to seize the energy high ground,” Akerson said. “Indeed, our leaders have been presented with an historic opportunity to create a national energy policy from a position of strength and abundance.”
According to Akerson, the pillars of such a plan must include:
- Energy diversity to avoid dependence on any one fuel or energy source. Continued development of all forms of domestic energy, including renewables, is required.
- Energy efficiency should remain a core component to allow the impact of prosperity and population growth.
- Continue to make meaningful, long-term investments in nascent technologies to drive CO2 emissions even lower.
The executive’s comments were followed by the admission that GM is taking a dual-strategy approach to electric car development, and that one of these efforts will result in a pure-electric vehicle capable of a 200-mile range.
How Is GM Helping The US’ Energy Security?
The General is doing its part in moving the U.S. towards energy security by making the industry’s most technologically-diverse range of fuel-efficient cars, trucks, and crossovers to meet new fuel economy standards. GM offers vehicles that run on clean diesel, battery power, a combination of battery power and electricity (EREV), and natural gas. Moreover, it’s increasingly incorporating fuel-saving technology like light electrification, cylinder deactivation, turbo-direct injection, and reduced mass into its vehicles.
Putting GM Vehicles On A Diet
One of the most common criticisms of General Motors vehicles has been their apparent heft when compared to the competition. GM has taken notice of the situation years ago, but it’s only now introducing vehicles with lighter curb weight, beginning with the new Cadillac ATS.
Besides platform-specific approaches to mass reduction, General Motors is also increasing the use of advanced materials such has carbon fiber and magnesium in its vehicles while investing in nano steels and resistance spot welding for aluminum structures.
Mr. Akerson provided general examples about the fuel benefits of reduced mass: “A good rule of thumb is that a 10-percent reduction in curb weight will reduce fuel consumption by about 6.5 percent,” Akerson said. “Our target is to reduce weight by up to 15 percent” by 2016.
Mr. Akerson also said that General Motors remains committed to saving 12 billion gallons of fuel over the life of the vehicles it built or will build between 2011 and 2017. That’s the equivalent as not forgoing the use of 675 million barrels of oil, nearly as much as much oil the United States imported from the Persian Gulf in 2011.
Energy-Efficient, Environmentally-Friendly Plants
Another statistic mentioned by Mr. Akerson is that The General reduced its energy intensity per vehicle produced by 28 percent from 2005 to 2010, and has set a goal of achieving a 20percent reduction per vehicle in its global C02 footprint by 2020.
In addition, 105 of The General’s plants currently have a landfill-free status, which means that over 97 percent of the waste material is recycled or reused. The remainder is sent to landfill-free plants. GM’s goal is to have 125 of its facilities be landfill-free by 2025. What’s perhaps even more eye-opening is that all GM plants, landfill-free or not, recycle or reuse 90 percent of their waste.
To the surprise of many, these processes generate about $1 billion in annual revenue for GM. In 2011 alone, 2.5 million metric tons of waste from landfills (the equivalent of 38 million garbage bags) were eliminated.
And that is one of the reasons that the Environmental Protection Agency awarded GM the 2013 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year “Sustained Excellence” award.