BILLFORDSIDEPHOTOWilliam Clay Ford, Jr., Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company, delivered the Seventh Annual Peter M. Wege Lecture at the University of Michigan November 13, 2007. Henry Ford’s great-grandson, who goes by the name “Bill Ford,” called his speech, The Road to Sustainable Transportation.

Bill Clay Ford has been known for his environmentalism since he joined Ford Motor’s board in 1988. From the beginning, the graduate of Princeton with a masters degree from MIT pushed Ford to design more fuel-efficient vehicles. But with gas relatively cheap at the time, and with SUVs and trucks Ford Motor’s money makers, his green message didn’t resonate with the management. Twenty years later, with gas over $3.00 a gallon, Ford’s fellow executives are thinking green as well.

Bill Ford chose the occasion of a full house for the Wege Lecture in Rackham’s Auditorium to announce Ford Motor’s formation of a national energy panel to be called the Transformation Advisory Council (TAC). Council members will include senior executives from Ford who are the innovative thinkers, environmental scientists and engineers from major universities, representatives from national environmental organizations, members of the private sector, government officials, and people from non-profit world.

The Chairman of the Ford third of the Big Three sees the TAC as the first step to developing a national energy policy, something he says “has to happen.” Ford spoke to the environmental necessity of a national policy by citing statistics that emissions from this nation’s car and trucks are leading contributors to global warming. In terms of national security and the economy, Ford said, until we can produce American vehicles that consume less fuel, we will continue to be dependent on—and vulnerable to—foreign oil-producing countries.

With proposed alternative-energy solutions varying from ethanol to electricity to hydrogen, Bill Ford called for a federal policy that will help direct America’s auto industry to build the right engines. To solve the oil crisis, our current gas stations will ultimately need to be replaced by a new fuel infrastructure. For the auto makers, the sooner there’s a national energy policy directing the fuel of the future, the sooner the Big Three can tool up to provide the engines.

Two environmental leaders Bill Ford has invited to sit on the TAC are also two of the authors Peter Wege drew on in his 1998 book ECONOMICOLOGY: The Eleventh Commandment. One is Amory Lovins, chairman and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute; the other is Paul Hawken, a nationally recognized environmental pioneer.