By Bertel Schmitt
While Chrysler has a few plug-in vehicle experiments ongoing, it is not known to be strong in the electrified sector, and now its CEO has come out in favor of CNG as an effective end for America’s reliance on foreign oil.
Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said during the weekend before last at an industry convention in China that it is “most shocking” that the United States auto industry is not throwing its might behind natural gas, which has been found in abundance in its home country.
“A rapid adoption of CNG as a fuel source for automotive applications would almost instantly kill the reliance on foreign oil, and it would bring about a substantial reduction in emissions,” said Marchionne. “Those are opportunities that need to be grabbed and they need to be industrialized. Especially with large vehicles like pickups and large SUVs, we could probably accommodate the installation of CNG tanks within the next 24 to 36 months.”
As we saw last week also, Chrysler’s Ram brand has just launched a bi-fuel, CNG-capable light-duty production truck.
But though Marchionne’s newsworthy views were offered on the sidelines of the convention in Shanghai, his talk about the paradigm-shifting potential of CNG was not reported. Instead reporters chased down answers to politicized questions as to whether Jeep production would be outsourced to China.
Concerns by reporters focused on whether production priorities would cost jobs in the U.S., or Italy. Both of which Marchionne answered for the umpteenth time with a “no.”
Poor reporting by unscrupulous bloggers has been partially blamed for the rumor that Jeep production would be outsourced from Toledo, Ohio, to China. Actually an original story on Oct. 22 by Bloomberg had the facts straight, but others overstated the purported sell-out to the Chinese story to the point that even Mitt Romney got it wrong.
This in turn was a setback for Romney as he used the incorrect info in an Ohio ad to strike at Obama for selling Chrysler to the Italians who planned to move Jeep production to China. That miscue led to him being quickly censured in the media, including by Bill Clinton who has been quoted as saying Romney’s assertion is “the biggest load of bull in the world.”
But while reporters were chasing the seeds of that false Jeep-to-China report with Marchionne in Shanghai, they missed a true story on his considered views on how to cure U.S. dependence on foreign oil and to curb global warming.
And while he is at it, Marchionne says he doesn’t think ethanol has much future in the U.S. He said alcohol works as a fuel for Brazil where, “from a global standpoint, producing ethanol probably is the most efficient use of their sugarcane.” It was tried in Africa, and it failed. And, said Marchionne, he is “making no comments on the U.S. side of ethanol production which relies on grains.” We take it, Sergio doesn’t think it’s a good idea.
Asked to explain the cause for why alternative fuels aren’t adopted in wholesale fashion the world over, Marchionne started to say “the dominance of oil …” Then he checked himself, took a big breath, and said “I am not pointing fingers on big oil being responsible for anything.”
Instead, he continued on more benignly, saying the existence of oil production as a big business with established refinery capacity in most developed countries is a force to be reckoned with.
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