General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz, on the 100th anniversary of GM’s founding, appeared on Stephen Colbert’s show last night, and embarrassed his company. Lutz, unfortunately for this aging industrial giant, is a Luddite, supporting the most extreme crackpot denials of the science of climate change and attacking the Volt — GM’s next-generation hybrid automobile that can run entirely on electricity for trips of 40 miles or less — as a weak, unattractive car. His extremism was barely matched by Colbert’s parodic statements:
Colbert: Why not just call this the Chevy Gore? You don’t believe global warming is real, you’ve said so.
Lutz: I accept that the planet is heated, but I, like many noted scientists, I don’t believe in the CO2 theory.
Colbert: Exactly! I just think that people are leaving their toaster ovens open. [Or] it’s just sun-spot activity.
Lutz: In the opinion of about 32,000 of the world’s leading scientists, yes.
Lutz’s “32,000 of the world’s leading scientists” nonsense is taken from press releases by the right-wing industry-funded Heartland Institute, amplified by right-wing blogs and radio shows. This is a zombie lie, which was begun in 1998 by the right-wing industry-funded Oregon Institute. The National Academy of Sciences, whose name was misleadingly used, issued this warning on April 20, 1998:
The petition project was a deliberate attempt to mislead scientists and to rally them in an attempt to undermine support for the Kyoto Protocol. The petition was not based on a review of the science of global climate change, nor were its signers experts in the field of climate science.
One might think Lutz was merely joking along, but this February, Lutz called global warming “a total crock of shit.” General Motors deserves better leadership, particularly when its economic future depends on escaping the suicidal oil-based economy that has driven the company to the brink. As Max Gladwell writes:
The irony is that Lutz and his ilk are buying this Big Oil propaganda. Meanwhile, his company’s cozy relationship with Big Oil has lead them to the verge of bankruptcy, unless American taxpayers come through with a bailout. The supreme irony is that the bailout is to help GM meet efficiency standards that it needs to achieve anyway to stay competitive with foreign automakers. When will they learn?
UPDATE: The Seminal‘s Josh Nelson notes, “On their website, GM claims to be concerned about the environment. They even specifically address their greenhouse gas emissions:”
There is no question that our products and manufacturing facilities have an impact on the environment. Not only do internal combustion engines produce emissions and greenhouse gases, but in the process of building millions of vehicles per year, our manufacturing facilities emit CO2 and greenhouse gases as well. The good news is that GM is hard at work trying to reduce our impact on the environment.