GE's CEO Jeff Immelt has published an interesting piece in this week's Barron's . We strongly recommend it because it so well illustrates the precarious fulcrum that the future of society, of our environment, and our manufacturing economy balance upon. More about that idea after a few highlights from the Barron's article. "Ecomagination was designed to develop new technologies to meet customers' needs in an increasingly energy- and carbon-constrained world. It came from our belief that we can support our customers and make money doing it. We said green can be green, and we are proving it". More after the fold:"During the year, GE (ticker: GE) installed more than 1,300 wind turbines globally, "
"The 1,000th Evolution locomotive -- an enormous, big-ticket item that entered commercial production just 18 months ago -- will soon roll off our assembly line and go into service on America's rails".
"The world has roughly a 200-year supply of coal, and GE's technology will produce energy with emissions approaching that of natural gas "
"Also on our drawing boards: A 200-ton, "Prius-on-rails" hybrid locomotive ".
What is at stake is beyond GE's financial performance and celebrity status as green ambassador of US industry. Mr. Immelt has picked up the gauntlet so often flung by politicians, economic theorists, and free market utopians. typically these would be people with no, or minimal, business experience of their own and put it upon the hands of thousands of GE employees. It fits! The evidence is in, and little is left to spin or speculate on, establishing quite clearly that doing good things for the environment can be profitable.
His message is circumspect, and we hope he will not object to a TreeHugger interpolation. The "good", or profit, if you will, is not just for GE; it is for their customers, and their customers' customers. A GE-made freight engine that hauls goods more efficiently makes such firms as Wal-Mart and Whole Foods more resource efficient in distributing goods to you Dear Reader. Once some of the freight train emissions have been turned into a "nega-input" across multiple supply chains, the Climate Change mitigation gains are irreversible. It is every bit as important to do this as it is for a customer to chose going to the store on a bicycle or in a hybrid vehicle instead of in an SUV.
By speaking boldly about success, companies like GE help overcome the "noises" made by those who testify that progress must come with added degradation of the environment. And they raise the bar for competitors. Government is paralyzed. With industry leading by example, we might hope government can follow with some 'Govemagination'. That way the teetering about will be less frightful.