Now that former CEO Jeffrey Immelt is fully out of the General Electric picture as both CEO and chairman of the Board of Directors, his replacement, John L. Flannery, is working to cut the costs many said would be among his first priorities.
The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday revealed (paywall) some of the excess under Immelt, the most sensational being that he sometimes had an empty corporate jet follow the one he was flying in, in case there were delays or mechanical problems. A GE spokewoman justified the practice by telling the newspaper that the “two planes were used on limited occasions for business-critical or security purposes.”
Whether or not the double-jet travel (what was Immelt going to do if his plane had problems – parachute to the other one?) was justified can be left to the judgment of the reader and GE’s shareholders.
But Immelt’s requirement to keep an extra plane nearby, flying along belching twice the amount of carbon dioxide into our (allegedly) climate change-challenged environment, shows him to be another corporate celebrity hypocrite who wantonly “pollutes” the air while chastising anyone who casts doubt on global warming alarmism.
As far back as 2005 (and probably earlier) Immelt was co-writing about “The Courage to Develop Clean Energy” for the Washington Post, proclaiming “only now our primary objective must be to revolutionize the way we produce and consume energy….global climate concerns demand nothing less.” Along with World Resources Institute President Jonathan Lash, Immelt attempted to shame politicians, policymakers and fellow businesses for the lack of will “to follow through.”
“We believe that government can restore its leadership position by moving beyond the gridlock on energy and environmental policy,” Immelt and Lash wrote. “We need a policy that commits to market-based approaches that can drive environmental improvement.”
Immelt earned plaudits from environmental activists, known to cast a skeptical eye toward the corporate world that often appears to be “greenwashing.”
“G.E. is deploying the biggest and most ambitious climate strategy in corporate America, and taking an incredibly gutsy stand in favor of greenhouse-gas regulations,” said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, in 2006.
And Immelt even had a former president fooled about his sincerity to battle global warming.
“A clean, energy-independent future would create millions of new jobs, increase our national security, and combat climate change,” said Bill Clinton in 2006. “Jeffrey Immelt sees the opportunity as well as the threat and is making climate-change technologies the center of General Electric’s profit strategy. All of us should be grateful.”
The following year Time magazine celebrated Immelt as a “Hero of the Environment,” praising him for initiating GE’s “Ecoimagination” campaign and for leading in the creation of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of businesses and nonprofits to advocate for policies such as cap-and-trade or taxes on carbon dioxide.
“Immelt has paved the way for hundreds of other business leaders to commit themselves to finding climate-change solutions,” wrote Yale environmental law professor Dan Esty for Time in 2007. “But his environmental focus does not derive from an overweening sense of corporate social responsibility. Immelt believes that GE’s eco-leadership will position it for success in a range of high-growth and high-margin markets. ‘Green is green,’ he declares.”
The global warming believers at Bloomberg called it “The Immelt Revolution,” but as the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney revealed in 2011, GE’s initiatives were far more “subsidy suckling” than principled environmentalism. The company had multiple business arms – spending $6.77 million during one quarter – lobbying the Obama administration and Congress for various favors to improve the promise of its “Ecoimaginative” businesses.
One example from Carney on how GE wanted to profit from a mandatory cap-and-trade scheme:
Most important in this gambit might be Greenhouse Gas Services, a joint venture between GE and power giant AES. GHGS creates and trades in greenhouse-gas credits. As of now, some companies do this voluntarily. Under cap-and-trade manufacturers and other energy consumers would be required to buy GHG credits.
“They (GE’s business arms) all reach out for government favors,” Carney added, identifying GE’s corporate cronyism in lobbying for involvement on President Obama’s light rail initiative, wind turbines, and elimination of the incandescent light bulb in favor of far more expensive, mandatory “energy efficient” compact fluorescents and LED bulbs.
Nonetheless fast-forward to this year and Immelt was still touting the climate cause with criticisms of President Trump’s regulatory rollback policies and his planned withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. According to Politico in March, Immelt said in a company blog post that “the company’s incorporation of green technology in response to ‘well accepted’ climate change science has had a demonstrable effect both on environmental protection on improving company profits.”
“We believe climate change should be addressed on a global basis through multi-national agreements, such as the Paris Agreement,” Immelt wrote. “We hope that the United States continues to play a constructive role in furthering solutions to these challenges, and at GE, we will continue to lead with our technology and actions.”
Then in May he told students in a speech at Georgetown University that “we are for staying in the (Paris) treaty” and “as a company we think that climate change is real.” A month later, following the President’s announcement that the U.S. would indeed leave the agreement, he tweeted, “Disappointed with today’s decision on the Paris Agreement. Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government.”
At the beginning of this month GE announced Immelt would step down as chairman of the board two months earlier than planned. Last week the excesses and hypocrisy of Immelt’s reign over the company were revealed, with a disastrous third-quarter earnings report.
“We are focused on redefining our culture, running our businesses better and reducing our complexity,” said new CEO John Flannery said in a statement. “Everything is on the table and there are no sacred cows.”
No amount of “climate change” hucksterism, or media fawning and amplification of it, can overcome the bottom line.