Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet

Plug-In Hybrids "Yes," Ethanol "No": Largest-Ever Push Mounted to Drive GM, Ford to Shift from Ethanol to Plug-In Hybrids

September 13 , 2007

Washington, DC -- America’s two biggest car makers – General Motors Corporation (GM) and the Ford Motor Company – are the focus of the most ambitious effort ever to enlist Americans to tell Detroit to stop focusing on ethanol fuel at the expense of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).    Auto consumers who want to speak out are being encouraged by Co-op America to go to /takeaction/fordandgm/  in order to send a message to Alan Mulally, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company, and G. Richard Wagoner, Jr., chairman and CEO, GM.

The Web site also features the “Fueling Our Future” feature in the current issue of the Co-op America Quarterly at /pubs/greenamerican/articles/Summer2007Fuels.cfm.  The Quarterly provides a ranking of key auto fuel sources, including gasoline, ethanol, gas-electric hybrid power trains and PHEVs and tells viewers which fuels are truly green, and which are just greenwashing

Co-op America Corporate Responsibility Programs Director Todd Larsen said:  As the planet heats up, America’s largest car makers are giving us a lot of hot air about solutions, but taking few real steps to meaningfully reduce carbon emissions.  Both Ford and GM have the capability to mass produce plug-in hybrid cars in the near future. Ford has announced a partnership with Southern California Edison to produce such cars in the next 5-10 years. Chevy unveiled the Chevy Volt concept car, a plug-in, at auto shows this year.  We are asking thousands of concerned consumers nationwide to tell Ford and GM to stop promoting corn-based ethanol, and focus instead on increased fuel efficiency and plug-in hybrid vehicles as real solutions to the climate and energy crises.”

"Plug-in hybrids will save consumers money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve national security by moving us away from oil," said Sherry Boschert, author of Plug-in Hybrids: The Cars That Will Recharge America (New Society Publishers). "The technology is ready today. We just need the political will to get these cars on the road. I encourageall concerned consumers to take Co-op America's action encouraging Ford and GM to produce plug-ins soon"

The suggested letter text to GM and Ford reads, in part, as follows:  “Instead of promoting ethanol, your companies need to improve the fuel efficiency of your vehicles to 40 mpg by 2012 and 55 mpg by 2020 to avert a climate crisis. Since the majority of your companies’ greenhouse gas emissions are generated by your cars when they’re driven this calls for increased fuel efficiency and increased production of hybrid, including plug-in hybrid cars …The next car I buy will be a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle and I’ll only consider buying from your company if you make them!”

Ford vehicles were responsible for 25 percent of the carbon emissions from cars in the United States in 2004, and GM vehicles were responsible for 31 percent. Both companies continue to resist a rise in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, and both promote ethanol as a viable part of the solution to global warming and energy security.   However, ethanol-fueled cars are less fuel-efficient and producing ethanol using current technologies produces massive amounts of global warming emissions. The corn that goes into ethanol takes massive amounts of energy, water, and land to produce, and using it for fuel takes away food from the world’s poorest peoples.

Instead of promoting ethanol, the top U.S. auto manufacturers are being urged to produce mass market hybrid and plug-in vehicles.  “Well-to-wheels” analysis (which considers the energy used to extract and process fuel and power a vehicle) by Argonne National Labs show that PHEVs run on conventional gasoline emit 40 percent less CO2, 35 percent less carbon monoxide, and almost 50 percent fewer smog-related volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than standard internal combustion engines. A paper put out by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) confirms Argonne’s findings, stating that even given the current mix of electricity in the US grid, the use of PHEVs would emit an average of 42 percent fewer CO2 emissions than vehicles with standard engines.

Experts say that we could switch the majority of cars to PHEVs tomorrow without building a single new power plant. A 2007 study by NREL concludes that the current US electrical grid has enough off-peak power for the daily commutes 73 percent of the US light duty fleet (all cars, trucks, SUVS, and vans), if they were PHEVs. The remainder could easily come from renewable solar or wind energy.


Co-op America is a non-profit membership organization founded in 1982 with the mission to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—and to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.

CONTACT:  Patrick Mitchell, (703) 276-3266 or  

Return to Newsroom »

See more Press Releases »


Please contact Todd Larsen by email
or by phone at 202-872-5307.


Sign up
Get our latest news, actions, green tips & discounts.