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Jumpstarting Ford to Stop Global Warming

WALNUT CREEK DAILY EXCLUSIVE: Ford’s Green Record Protested
Walnut Creek demonstration ends amicably with dealer agreeing to sign letter

By Steve Long
February 10, 2005

A colorful demonstration by about 50 activists protesting Ford Motor Company’s environmental record ended amicably Friday outside of Walnut Creek Ford when the dealership’s owner agreed to sign a letter supporting the demonstrators’ demands.

Holding a giant red helium balloon and chanting, “Ford, Ford, you’re no good, treat the planet like you should,” demonstrators from a coalition of Bay Area environmental organizations likened Ford to a drug addict.

“Ford has a problem – oil addiction,” said Jennifer Krill of the Rainforest Action Network. “So we are doing an ‘intervention’ like you would do with a drug addict or an alcoholic.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable in the 21st century for Ford to manufacture vehicles with the lowest fuel efficiency in the industry. We deserve better.”

Krill and other activists from groups including Code Pink, Global Exchange, and the Ruckus Society, charged Ford had broken promises to improve the fuel efficiency of its vehicles and had wrongly made a controversial decision to eliminate its popular natural gas and all-electric vehicle programs.

“Ford is America’s worst gas guzzler,” said Jason Mark, a staff organizer for Global Exchange.

Krill charged that “Ford’s oil binge” is “shattering the new American dream for energy independence. It is unconscionable that Ford’s fuel efficiency continues to fall at a time when the Arctic icecap is melting and over 100 million Americans live in major auto markets that exceed federal health guidelines for clean air.”

Another demonstrator, Andrea Buffa, a member of the feminist group, Code Pink, said the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil and the war in Iraq were related: “If Ford improves its fuel efficiency, it will lead to a better foreign policy and fewer wars for oil.”

Mike Brune of the Rainforest Action Network told the activists that he had seen oil drilling and oil pipelines in the Ecuadorian rain forest: “We can’t reduce the pressure on the world’s forests unless we reduce our oil dependency.”

Walnut Creek Ford co-owner Sid Savarani said Ford is committed to better fuel efficiency. “Ford is the first manufacturer building a hybrid SUV, the Escape,” he said. “Ford is also coming out with a hybrid car, the Fusion, by the end of the summer. And the Ford Focus, while not a hybrid, is the most fuel efficient car in the small compact class.”

Savarani said it took time to develop new fuel-efficient technologies, but Ford also had to respond to market demand. “If people want more fuel-efficient cars, Ford will make them. But when people want gas-guzzling SUVs, Ford can’t walk away from that business.”

The demonstrators had alerted him in advance of the demonstration, one of several planned for the Bay Area, Savarani said, and were “very professional.”

He said he would sign a letter to Ford Chief Executive Officer William Clay Ford, Jr., that the demonstrators asked him to sign. The letter asks that Ford use existing technologies to immediately improve its fleet-wide fuel efficiency and commit to ultimately eliminate tailpipe emissions.

“I don’t see anything wrong with the letter, and believe I’ll sign it,” Savarani said.

Richard Perl, an attorney with the activists from New York City, called the demonstration a “successful milestone. We achieved what we came here to do, and we won’t come back to this dealership.”