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We're here at your research labs. How do see technology addressing climate change?
Bolsinger: I'd say that when you look at where the world needs to be--let's say we really have to have 80 percent lower (greenhouse gas) emissions by the middle of the century, right? That's the "walking around" numbers that the scientists say.
Eighty percent is huge. So I say in the next 5 to 10 years, we're going to focus on component efficiencies. Making everything more efficient by an order of magnitude, so you might say the GE (aircraft) engine is 15 percent more efficient--that's a good one. The Evolution locomotive with 40 percent lower nitrogen oxide emissions. More efficient lighting. (The list goes on.)
All those component things are doable. I think that the next generation of technologies--say, in the next 10 to 20 years--will revolve more around systems, looking at bigger broader systems play. Because now you need to get 20, 30, 40 percent improvements. We're going to be looking at total air traffic management. Not just making the engine in the airplane a little more efficient--the whole system has to get more efficient.
And further out, it's really transformational technologies. Truly breakthroughs that we don't have on the radar screen today. Or making those breakthroughs more cost-competitive. The next-generation solar, battery technology, biofuels.
We have to work on those today if you are going to be see them 20 years from now--it takes that long to get the infrastructure in place. We're doing the research today on how to make it cost-competitive, deployable, all those things. We've got to be working on those things today if we expect it to be in any way mainstream by midcentury.
How about the nonenergy parts of GE? What does Ecomagination mean to them?
Bolsinger: We have more folks wanting to create certified products than we could have imagined. It's easy to imagine the technologies that I've already talked about. The energy business already has an enormous (amount of) renewable technologies--everything from biogas turbines to gas turbines to wind and solar, integrated coal gasification. You can understand those.
The surprises for me have been the financial-services business coming to us, creating a green credit card. There's no end to this thing. I didn't think we thought about ecohomes. It just serves as a muse for how our business groups can work together--our water (purification) and energy business, for example.
Has there been any skepticism at all? There are people who don't believe in global warming and climate change. Has that been a barrier at all?
Bolsinger: No, it hasn't. First of all, we took off the table the debate about climate change a long time ago.
There are fewer and fewer people who are skeptics on climate change. People who say, "I don't believe it" or "I don't see it," they kind of are outliers at this point. I think it's much more mainstream. We're past the point of debating the science.
For us, we said we're just going to take reality as it is. So whether you want to debate climate change until the cows come home doesn't matter. The world is moving in that direction. There is scarcity of resources, there is regulation coming, so let's deal with the world we have. We can keep debating. What's the point of that? The world's has moved on, and we need to keep pace with that.
I think the skepticism piece was never a big deal for me because (Ecomagination) was never based on "we're doing this for philanthropy" or "we're doing this to make the world safe." We're glad to be doing that as a result of making money. It's a different lens that informs your decisions about where to spend money and what resources you're going to invest.
Has there been resistance internally? This is a big change. Has it caused conflicts?
Bolsinger: Not conflicts. I know everybody wants to tell that story that everybody was skeptical. I think the biggest concern in the very beginning was that we didn't overstate things. We didn't turn into this big green machine.
We've been around for more than 120 years. We have legacy issues. Of course we do. I think you always have to be very careful that you don't step out and try to be holier than thou. You have to do what you're good at.
So I wouldn't call it skepticism. I would call it healthy concern that we get it right.
I have an eco-advisory board...We bring in outsiders to tell us how we are doing because I think it's important.
So I wouldn't say skeptics. I'd say there is tension in the businesses--the kind of tension that you want. Tension means that there is movement. If there's no tension, then it's business as usual--you just call it Ecomagination, and you're not doing anything different.
I like the tension. The tension comes when we introduce the GE Money (business) to the energy financial-services (business), and we say, "You ought to buy their offsets." And we get these two businesses to work together.
Does it cause tension? Yeah, but look at the result.
I'd say if the only other place that we have concern--and we always have concern--is whether customers embrace it. We have to be careful that the customers don't feel that we are so far out in front of them that they can't keep up.
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