Climate Change

Published on March 31st, 2017 | by Tina Casey

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GE Aims To Fill US Foreign Policy Void With Action On Climate Change

March 31st, 2017 by  

The Intertubes are buzzing with news of an internal General Electric blog post that circulated earlier this week under the authorship of CEO Jeff Immelt. In response to the rollback of the Clean Power Plan, Immelt comes out swinging with a pledge that GE will soldier on to address climate change.

That’s no surprise to those of you following GE’s many forays into the clean tech field (more examples are here and here). The real derring-do comes when Immelt all but compares the Trump Administration to rogue states and urges other companies to develop their own “foreign policy.”

Ouch!

GE Immelt Trump Paris climate change

Jeffrey Immelt Pits GE Vs. Trump On Climate Change

The internal GE blog post was somehow obtained by Politico, so thanks Politico. Here’s the money quote:

“Companies must be resilient and learn to adjust to political volatility all over the world…Companies must have their own ‘foreign policy’ and create technology and solutions that address local needs for our customers and society.”

Immelt doesn’t specify what he means by “political volatility,” but he does rather politely plant the idea that you can consider the US a rogue state if it pulls out of the Paris climate agreement:

“We believe climate change should be addressed on a global basis through multi-national agreements, such as the Paris Agreement. We hope that the United States continues to play a constructive role in furthering solutions to these challenges…”

And if not? Well GE is prepared to step into the void:

“…and at GE, we will continue to lead with our technology and actions…”

So. There.

GE And Climate Change: It’s Complicated

Before you get too excited, GE is not saying goodbye to the fossil fuel industry and sailing into the climate change sunset. GE is still a legacy company with one foot firmly planted in oil and gas.

Just last fall, for example, GE opened a new oil and gas R&D center in Oklahoma, aka the “Land of 1,000 Earthquakes.”

The new facility aims to provide the industry with digital solutions that will enable it to “thrive long-term,” so there’s that.

On the other hand, GE is pivoting its fossil-centric business toward greater efficiencies and fewer emissions. One chief project of the new R&D center is “Raven,” a new sensor drone that provides a low cost way for companies to pinpoint emissions at oil and gas operations.

In other words, no excuses!

Unfortunately Raven may not see much use under the Trump Administration. Former President Barack Obama’s EPA was moving toward tighter regulations for fugitive methane emissions, but that issue probably won’t get much attention for a while.

GE And Trump: That’s Complicated, Too

The new blog post follows on the heels of a January 29 missive to employees, in which Immelt took a potshot at President Trump’s Muslim ban. Here’s the takeaway from CNN:

“These employees and customers are critical to our success and they are our friends and partners,” Immelt wrote, adding that GE would “stand with them” and work with federal officials to find a balance between security and the “movement of law abiding people.”

That’s pretty weak tea, but by way of explanation consider that GE is a member of Trump’s highly touted manufacturing council.

On February 1, just days after Trump issued the first iteration of the Muslim ban, Immelt sat down for an interview with Bloomberg. During the interview he defended the President’s approach to international trade, regulatory simplification, the tax code, and even that Twitter thing.

In a followup interview with CNBC on February 8, Immelt made it clear that GE supports the President on business issues and would help foster his agenda.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do…Or Not

So, does the latest blog indicate that GE is bailing on the Trump Administration?

That wouldn’t be much of a surprise. After all, Trump’s own party in Congress is beginning to have second thoughts about his leadership.

Trump’s habit of insulting his foes and threatening people who don’t agree with him also isn’t helping.

Just this week he turned his wrath on the notoriously conservative Freedom Caucus for failing to support his “Trumpcare” health bill. The New York Times cites this tasty nugget from Twitter:

In an early morning Twitter attack, Mr. Trump singled out members of the House Freedom Caucus, which scuttled his health care overhaul last week. “The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast,” he wrote. “We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!”

Perhaps Immelt is not going to wait around for the insults to rain down upon GE.

Image: GE “space frame” wind turbine tower by Tina Casey.


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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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