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GM plans to speed up timeline for 100% renewable energy

The Chevrolet Bolt, a long-range electric car
The Chevrolet Bolt, a long-range electric car

Less than eight months after General Motors made its initial 100% renewable energy commitment, the Detroit automaker's CEO, Mary Barra, says the timeline will be sped up.

"That's a stake that we put in the ground and now we plan to move that back," Barra said at a press conference held prior to GM's annual shareholders meeting.

A spokesman for GM confirmed the plan, but says there is "no new timetable to announce at this point."

In September last year, GM said it will commit to generating or sourcing all electrical power for its 350 operations in 59 countries with 100% renewable energy — such as wind, sun and landfill gas — by 2050.

Barra made the comment after she was asked whether President Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the landmark Paris Climate Accord would change anything for GM. Barra said it would not.

"We understand the science (of climate change) and believe in the science," says Barra, "and we are committed to taking actions to reduce emissions and negate the negative impact from an environmental perspective."

Barra said GM's commitment to use renewable energy and its large investments in electric vehicles, including the first-to-mass-market Bolt, are examples of those actions. She says the auto industry has given people freedom and mobility, but it also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, which are warming the planet.

"So we feel a very big responsibility and we're going to take these steps regardless, and we have voiced that opinion to the administration even prior to their decision," said Barra.

GM came under some criticism from the Sierra Club after Barra's comments were published, however. The environmental group notes the trade group GM belongs to, the Auto Alliance, asked the Trump administration to re-examine the fuel economy regulations for 2022-2025, claiming they are too costly. 

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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