General Motors CEO Dan Akerson called on President Barack Obama to come up with a cohesive 30-year national energy policy that would develop all forms of energy, but slash carbon emissions and shrink the trade deficit.
"The commission needs to include a broad cross-section of energy producers and energy consumers, and they should be given a straightforward charge: Develop a plan to improve our standard of living by extending the duration of the natural gas and tight oil 'dividend' for as long as possible," Akerson said Wednesday at the IHS CERA energy conference in Houston.
For Akerson and GM, his remarks were a rare public declaration of policy preferences that contrasted with the low profile GM maintained during the 2012 presidential election, when the company was wielded as a political tool by Democrats and Republicans.
GM's spending on lobbying fell to $7.2 million last year, a 12-year low, and a 35% reduction from $11 million spent a year earlier, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Akerson's decision to speak out and emphasize the importance of securing the nation's energy future could indicate the automaker is taking early steps to restore its influence in Washington.
His call for a national energy policy falls in line with similar remarks by other auto industry executives, including Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, who has been calling for a national energy policy for years.
Akerson said the energy industry, clean-tech innovators, utilities, unions and manufacturers should "negotiate the necessary trade-offs" to "create our first sustainable consumer-driven energy policy."
Akerson's speech, delivered at the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston, included a few details about GM's energy priorities. He reiterated the company's commitment to putting 500,000 electrified vehicles on the road by 2017, a figure that includes cars with start-stop systems, pure hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles.
He also said GM:
--Plans to reduce the weight of its vehicles by as much as 15% by the 2016 model year, which improves fuel economy. GM researchers and engineers are incorporating lighter materials like aluminum and carbon fiber into some vehicle parts. For example, the all-new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray has a carbon-fiber roof.
--Believes natural gas "represents a huge and largely untapped opportunity for commercial fleets and long-haul truckers to save money and contribute to cleaner air." --Will reduce the amount of carbon emissions from its plants by 20% per vehicle by 2020.
--Will boost the number of manufacturing facilities that recycle or reuse 100% of their waste from 104 to 125 by 2025.
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