Status quo.” Probably
one of the most familiar terms from Latin origins that has carried
over into present-day English. But the status quo seems to be fading
away. Not necessarily from our vocabulary, but from how we view
the future when it comes to energy.
November marked the mid-term elections with a majority of incumbents
facing challengers who propose a change in the way things
are done. With oil and energy prices rising and environmental challenges
growing, there are few issues that have sparked more disfavor
with the status quo than those that center around energy. Where
it comes from, how we use it and what its effects are on the
environment have all become questions posed by society to
our elected officials.
Probably the greatest change taking place in this movement toward
responsible energy use comes from large corporations, most notably
the automobile industry. In this issue’s cover story, David
Clayton Wells outlines how America’s addiction to foreign
oil is sparking an industrial revolution for automobile manufacturers,
with Ford Motor Company leading the charge in ways ranging from
new developments for hybrid vehicles, to investing close to $10
billion for the development of alternative fuels.
Not to be outdone by the competition, General Motors has also been a
catalyst for change in the way automobiles are fueled. GM’s
new Lansing Delta Township Assembly Plant has received a Gold certification
from the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership
in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. To date, the
building is the only automotive manufacturing plant in the world
to receive any level of LEED certification. This milestone coupled
with the company’s commitment to the development of hydrogen
fuel cells—discussed on pages 16-17 in “Honoring the
Commitment”—has shown that GM is making tremendous
strides to shed the image that the Detroit auto industry
is irresponsible when it comes to energy and the environment.
In a slightly different move, Ford Motor Company is also embracing
social responsibility, but in the areas of health and economy.
Through its “Advancing Women’s Leadership and Advocacy
for AIDS Action” initiative, Ford will direct resources to
global efforts that strengthen leadership by building the skills
of women and other groups most affected by the disease. As Ford
believes, the impact of AIDS can definitely be felt as an immediate
shock—as when a family loses a breadwinner, or an organization
a key worker—but at the wider community or national level,
the impact is felt as the gradual accumulation of losses, and diminution
of resources and options for change.
In their book, Flight of the Buffalo, James Belasco and Ralph Stayer
said: “Change is hard because people overestimate the value
of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they
may gain by giving that up.” The effort to understand what
we, as a society, have to gain by stepping out of our comfort zone
created by the status quo and embracing change is growing. As more
and more industries assess the effectiveness of a greener
business model, the future begins to look brighter.