More and more, it's becoming critical for our citizenry to establish the credibility of the messenger.
I was thinking about that the other day when I was visited by Willie Soon, Ph.D., a physicist at the Solar, Stellar and Planetary Sciences Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Soon and a couple of other folks connected with the Americans for Prosperity organization stopped by my office the other day to try to convince me that the green movement toward more efficient and cleaner sources of energy is a farce.
Americans for Prosperity is a non-profit group "committed to educating citizens about economic policy and a return of the federal government to its Constitutional limits."
Soon says the earth's rising temperatures are being caused by natural cycles of the sun. In essence, the sun sometimes burns hotter, and in response, the earth gets warmer, he says.
According to Soon, we need not be concerned about rising levels of carbon dioxide and emissions from automobiles and coal plants, because mankind is not capable of causing global warming.
When I asked Soon about what America's energy strategy should be, he said we should drill for more oil. He said we should drill in the National Parks, we should drill more offshore and we should drill in the Arctic.
Drill, baby, drill.
A few days later, I visited an alternative universe. I was invited to a private luncheon to meet Robert Iorio, manager of hybrid propulsion implementation engineering for Ford Motor Co.
Iorio oversees a team of 40 engineers who enabled Ford to develop the 2010 Fusion, a hybrid car that will be available in March. The new Fusion, with a retail price of $27,995, will have the highest gas mileage in the industry, at 41 miles per gallon.
With the Fusion, the gas engine shuts off as the vehicle is stopped or in cruise mode, when a nickel metal hydride battery then powers the car. The Fusion also features "regenerative braking," in which energy is captured when the brakes are applied and then transferred to recharge the battery.
Maybe you've noticed that, unlike General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, Ford has not needed to apply for any federal bailout dollars thus far. That's because Ford foresaw the economic downturn, streamlined its company into "one Ford" a few years ago and secured a rather cheap line of credit to help it survive the recession, Iorio said.
"We have not yet gone to the government (for bailout funds) and don't intend to," Iorio said.
Ford will double its production of hybrids this year to 50,000 vehicles.
Meanwhile, Ford is not idling. The company has signed a contract for Glendale-based Johnson Controls Inc. to produce batteries for its next generation of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to be introduced in 2012.
Ford's biggest challenge now is marketing, Iorio said. The company somehow needs to convince the American public that its vehicles are equal to or better than the foreign competition, he said.
Oh, and the new Fords will be more fuel efficient and will produce less emissions. I wonder if Dr. Soon will drive one anyway.
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.
Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.