Greenwash Watch: Gwyn Morgan on GM Advertising

equinox gm photo

Fuel Cell powered Equinox at car show

Until he retired, Gwyn Morgan was the most powerful oil man in Canada, sort of our own Boone Pickens without the evil swift boat stuff, although he has tussled with David Suzuki and fought against Kyoto. Now he writes, and writes off General Motors' electric and fuel cell powered cars, as well as GM Canada's ads from the Olympics that hyped them. (We drove one here.) He questions the idea and the ads, in the form of a dialogue with his 16-year-old nephew Alex and concludes:

"The bottom line is auto makers still haven't figured out how to build a practical or affordable fuel-cell vehicle and, in reality, there's only enough hydrogen to drive around a few very expensive prototype cars and city buses for photo ops. You'll probably be my age, Alex, before you see the so-called hydrogen highway."

He doesn't hold out much hope for the Volt and electric cars either, noting that there isn't sufficient electrical generating capacity. As for relying on renewable resources:

chevy volt trade show photo

Chevy Volt at car show

"One of the challenges with wind farms is that expensive, long new power lines are often needed, both because people don't like them nearby and because the most reliable winds are often in places where few people live. The same is true for hydro power from Canada's remote northern rivers.

The biggest problem, however, is that North America's long-distance transmission systems are already old and stretched to the limit. Building new ones will require trillions of dollars, and then there's the NIMBY problem."

He concludes with a discussion about the GM ads. "Advertisements almost always feature a product you can buy, but here we see ads for cars the company doesn't sell, powered by energy sources that either aren't available or are already supply challenged.

"I think I've figured it out," Alex says. "GM believes that people seeing their commercials won't think about these things, so they'll just feel good about the company."

Right on, Alex, Some advertising experts call it "creating a halo effect." I just call it green washing. ::Globe and Mail
More on GM Alternative Cars in TreeHugger:
Driving the Hydrogen Powered Fuel Cell Equinox
GM 2007 Ride and Drive : TreeHugger

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