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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

GE fighting new smog controls for railroad locomotives proposed by EPA

GE, the supposed environmentally friendly company behind the Ecomagination marketing campaign, has been fighting an aggressive proposal by the EPA to cut the smog emissions in locomotives. GE agrees with the EPA that there is a need for NOx reduction but is arguing for a less aggressive limit on emissions.

The EPA estimates that the cost to reduce these emissions would be $2 to $4 billion by the year 2030 but also estimates the value of the health and environmental benefits of the smog reduction at $70 billion over the same period. Wow. So why is GE fighting the EPA's proposal?

Existing GE locamotives meet the EPA's current limit of 5.5 grams per horsepower per hour's operation. This doesn't sound like a lot at first until you read that the EPA estimates each locomotive produces as much pollution over its lifetime as 500 heavy-duty diesel trucks. Yuck. The EPA wants to set the new limit to 1.3 grams while GE is willing to meet them at 1.9 grams. Okay. GE has stated that 1.3 grams is not feasible and would require a technological breakthrough. However, one of GE's smaller competitors in the locomotive space has stated that the new limit would be a "stretch" but it is reachable using existing smog control technology used in cars and trucks.

GE, to their credit, has issued a press statement and has insisted that the press characterization of them "fighting" the EPA is misleading. Well, if that is the case then how much of the shareholder's money is GE spending on lawyers and lobbyists for this cause?

I for one, think this is a PR blunder on GE's part as they have been a leading company in green technology, and, with their sketchy past, have come a very long way. When you're the second largest company in the world (by market cap) with as many businesses as GE has, 100% of the company is not going to get it right the first time around. I just hope that we do not see GE making empty promises like the ones we have seen from the energy companies.

read more at the WSJ | digg story

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