Ford Motor Co. has teamed with TerraPass, an environmental advocate group, to launch the “Greener Miles” program.

The program is designed to help drivers offset the amount of harmful greenhouse gas emissions from their vehicles.

Greener Miles is separated into two parts. The first is a website where drivers of Ford vehicles can calculate the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions their vehicles generate annually.

The site also contains facts on the effects of greenhouse gases on the environment and links to sites, such as the Ford Climate Change Report issued late last year.

The second part of the Greener Miles program encourages drivers to purchase a TerraPass, which ranges in cost from $29.95 to $79.95, depending on the type of vehicle and miles driven.

Revenue generated by TerraPasses goes toward investments in U.S.-based renewable clean-energy projects, such as wind power and power from cow manure.

TerraPass Chief Environmental Officer Tom Arnold says all of the clean- energy efforts are paid for with TerraPass revenue and are third-party verified by the Center for Resource Solutions, a leading authority on renewable and clean energy issues. Participants in the program receive a TerraPass decal for their vehicle.

Arnold says the idea stems from a class he attended at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

“TerraPass has been around for about 17 months,” he says. “It started as a class project,” he says. “Our professor challenged us to create a retail carbon offset business. We agreed to do it and immediately after asked what it was.”

The idea was for drivers to take themselves out of the greenhouse gas equation. After calculating how much pollution an individual driver creates, he is encouraged to negate the same amount of pollution through the program, rendering his vehicle emissions a non-factor.

The partnership with TerraPass is the latest in the line of environmentally friendly initiatives from the auto maker. Ford Chairman and CEO Bill Ford is a self-proclaimed environmentalist and has worked hard to portray Ford as a “green” company.

At first glance, the partnership between Ford and TerraPass seems to cast the auto maker in a green light. However, some of the calculations generated by the Terrapass website are startling.

For example, an ’06 Ford Explorer with 2-wheel drive and an automatic transmission produces 13,049 lbs. (592 kg) of CO2 emissions for every 12,000 miles (19,312 km) driven.

While it would appear offering consumers figures like that could backfire on Ford, Niel Golightly, Ford director-Sustainable Business Strategies, says that is not the case.

“I think this is all part of understanding the impact of vehicles,” he says. “It gives consumer choices. It’s not just a matter of saying, ‘look at the impact my vehicle has.’ It’s a question of doing something about it, which is purchase a TerraPass that offsets that CO2.”

Golightly says the partnership is designed to garner more participation in cutting down vehicle emissions. He says the auto industry cannot do it alone and cooperation is needed.

“There are many complexities facing our industry – whether energy security or CO2 – and what we need is the market and consumers engaged,” he says.

“And we need some pull for the cleaner technologies we’re working on,” Golightly adds. “This (TerraPass partnership) is a little initial effort to raise awareness of things we’re working on and make a business case for them.”

bpope@wardsauto.com