WASHINGTON: Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, had stern words at PRWeek's Target Green conference on October 3 about "Detroit" and energy utilities' commitment to environmental change.
Though Markey said people under 30 are, by and large, greatly concerned about global warming and pushing for a revolution in how businesses, consumers, and citizens use energy, he added that the auto and energy industries are for the most part actively against implementing new legislation that could effect change.
Some legislative ideas include rules to set average mileage per car at 35mph and mandates requiring utilities to produce 15% of electricity through renewable sources by 2020.
"But while Detroit is fighting it, there's no denying that change is possible," Markey said. "There is a lot of institutional inertia. A lot of companies are using their PR firms to fight change."
But energy efficiency is a marketing opportunity, said Markey, given that leaders on college campuses today are actively pushing for change.
At the University of Florida, for instance, Markey said students pushed against the initial wishes of school officials to enact a small student fee to go toward creating a wind turbine, ultimately raising about $250,000.
Beth Lowery, General Motors' VP of energy, environment, and safety policy, said during her keynote speech that her company was not totally against fuel-efficiency legislation, but simply favored standards that are more "reasonable" to achieve.
Lowery touted a number of GM's "green" initiatives, including development of ethanol-powered vehicles. She added that her company's management in recent years has even grown to appreciate the importance of promoting projects whose ultimate success is not assured, so stakeholders, the media, and the public appreciate that the company is committed to environmental change.
"Do tell your story. Tell it and tell it, and when you're sick of it, tell it again," Lowery said. "Don't just assume people know your story."