How Hummers are green
The name AM General Corp. doesnt ring a bell with many, although it should because they are making great strides in progressively addressing issues ranging from global warming, water pollution, and the impending worldwide oil crisis.Environmental sustainability is a stated objective of their operations. Yet, few have noticed their commitment to protect and promote a cleaner, healthier planet, because we stubbornly continue to focus on what they produce rather than how they produce it. AM General manufactures the Hummer.I had a difficult time coming to grips with this incongruity. The Hummer is a national icon for waste, greed and power. Pictures of the ostentatiously designed 10,000-pound behemoth mounted on oversized self-inflating tires do not have the same visual or physiological impact as other products unfurling the green flag, which can more easily associate themselves with clear blue skies and snowcapped peaks.But on the verge of environmental catastrophe, we cannot allow ourselves to be so easily fooled by marketing campaigns laid out dramatically on acid-free paper. Despite what they are building and how their customers use their product, the makers of Hummers are at the forefront of ecological stewardship.Take for example the H2 assembly plant in Mishawaka, Ind., built back in 2002. According to a company report on conservation responsibility: Always conscious of environmental issues, AM General built the facility with a sophisticated industrial wastewater treatment plant, which pre-treats process water from the paint shop prior to sending it back to the city water treatment facility.And that is just the beginning. The company has taken extraordinary steps to ensure that the manufacturing of its vehicles is more environmentally friendly than even that of the ultra eco-friendly Toyota Prius. A report by the organization Target of Opportunity notes that AM General has decided not employ the use of nickel batteries in their vehicles, which are found extensively in the Prius, and are, in fact, at the nucleus of Prius hybrid power plant. The nickel for these Prius batteries is mined and smelted in Sudbury, Ontario, causing a nightmare of environmental damage. According to David Martin, Canadian Greenpeace energy-coordinator, The acid rain around Sudbury was so bad it destroyed all the plants and the soil slid off the hillside.There is evidence that the efforts of AM General are paying off, too. A study by CNW Marketing titled Dust to Dust reiterates the achievement in evolving the Hummer into a model of efficiency when compared to the benchmark Prius. When the combined energy taken from all the electrical, fuel, transportation, materials and hundreds of other factors over the expected lifetime of a vehicle, the Prius [energy] costs an average of $3.25 per mile driven. By comparison, the Hummer costs just $1.34. In other words, from the time it sees the assembly line to the time it ends up in the scrap heap, on average, including energy used in manufacturing and driving, a Hummer uses less than half the energy of a Prius. Confronted with such evidence, we have to consider that the Hummer might well be a better choice than the Prius for drivers more serious and less emotional about saving our planet.In a 2004 San Diego Tribune article, Hummer marketing director Mike DiGiovanni stated, We definitely have a concern about gas prices. We are going to be looking at improving fuel economy.Since that time, backing up DiGiovannis words, General Motors (who purchased Hummer marketing, development and distribution rights in 1999) has introduced the smaller, lighter H3 spin-off of original Hummer designs. As a result, this latest incarnation of the Hummer has improved fleet average fuel economy by nearly eight miles per gallon, a number equaled by no other automobile line over the same period.This might not seem significant at first glance, but assume that 250,000 Hummers currently on the road are eventually replaced by the more efficient H3. At an average annual of 10,000 miles driven per vehicle, the amount of gasoline saved per year would amount to nearly 312 million gallons!Even more astounding, AM Generals product has inspired exploration into the feasibility of mass producing a completely nonpolluting hydrogen vehicle, which must become the ultimate goal of every dedicated transportation company to achieve a sustainable environment.In an article by Ron Cogan in Green Car.com, General Motors executives working with hydrogen technology on the Hummer H2 platform reported that, the H2H [hydrogen] is a valuable tool that will provide an opportunity to learn more about hydrogen storage, delivery systems, and refueling infrastructure development. As of the date of publication, the test vehicle achieved 60 pollution-free miles without refueling, offering incredible hope.On top of all this, we have to remember that the employees at AM General are ordinary, caring citizens. The vast majority do not drive gas-guzzling cars. Can we permit ourselves to imagine that many of them carpool to work? There might even be a few hybrid vehicles in the company parking lot. They likely are dedicated to making the world a better place, just like you and me.So yes, I have been converted into a believer. AM General, the manufacturer of the eco-terrible sport utility vehicles, is a committed steward of our environment. There is no denying this after reviewing their environmental track record and documented claims about commitment to sustainability.In doing the research for this piece, I found myself thinking: Thank goodness conscientious people are building these vehicles rather than somebody else who doesnt care as much. While it is easy to associate this company with the ostensibly environmentally clueless and common sense-defying profligate customers who apparently have no qualms about spending $4 a gallon to fill the 32-gallon tank of an excessively sized and luxuriated car that burns it at the disgust-inducing rate of 10 miles per gallon, is it right? No, that would be unfair, hypercritical and too far-reaching. To do so in the short run, diminishes the value of their progressive thought that we will need over the long haul. It is counterproductive to hold a company accountable for the behavior of its customers, even with its product, because it has no control over them. In progressive discussion, it is irrelevant to scrutinize what product a company produces, because in this age of insatiable demand, somebody will produce everything desired. All that truly matters is how they do it.Right?Roger Marolt suspects that Aspen, Colo., manufactures Hummers. He wonders if well ever admit it.
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