EDITORIAL/OPINION
PHOTO CAPTION: GM Co-chairman Bob Lutz with newly debuted Chevy Volt electric car

GM's Lutz Hits Speed Bumps on Colbert Report

GM's Co-Chairman appears on Comedy Central's Colbert Report and runs into unexpected flak.

Published: 18-Sep-2008

By Bill Moore

One day after the triumphant -- I suppose I can define it that way, but feel free to disagree -- unveiling of the Chevy Volt electric car, GM Co-chairman Bob Lutz drove into the surreal realm of Comedy Central's Colbert Report (pronounced like rapport), and hit more than a few speed bumps.

The ride immediately got rough when Colbert, who portrays a right-wing, conservative pundit in the image of Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, wanted reassurances that GM wasn't building the Volt because of its concerns about global warming.

"Otherwise you should call it the Chevy Gore," Colbert observed, tongue in check.

Lutz reacted as if he'd been sideswiped, stammering, looking for some way to respond.

"Cause you said you don't believe global warming is man-made," Colbert interjected.

Clearly flustered, Lutz, acknowledged that the planet is warming but that CO2 isn't to blame. Still trying to get his footing, he said that's a position taken by 32,000 scientists, referring to a petition that was circulated last year, along with a non-peer reviewed, repackaged version of a 1999 paper put out by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. Referred to as the Oregon Petition, it asked the recipients to sign the petition asking the US to not sign the Kyoto protocol. Presumably more than 30,000 did, but whether they understood what they were signing and who circulated it is doubtful.

The self-professed "small research institute" is headed by Arthur B. Robinson, characterized as an eccentric scientist who -- along with his two sons -- has "a long history of controversial entanglements with figures on the fringe of accepted research."

Collaborating with them since 1998 is the former head of the National Academy of Sciences, Frederick Seitz, whose last research position was in 1968. Now some 96 years of age, Seitz worked in subsequent years for various corporations including RJ Reynolds, who eventually let him go, allegedly because of his advanced years and declining mental abilities.

The rehashed version of the 1998 paper is discussed in some detail on the Real Climate web site. The reader comments alone are worth digesting, especially the fact that 13 of the 19 organizations funding two of the co-authors the original paper (Baliunas and Soon) were themselves funded by Exxon.

Obviously Lutz has bought into the anti-global warming line -- what else can you do when the product you build contributes something like 22% of all man-made CO2?

Here's an interesting exercise. Do a Google search for "global warming 32,000 scientists" and see how many clearly conservative-oriented web sites and blogs jumped all over the OISM's announcement, repeating it ad naseum as proof that (A) global warming is a hoax and (B) lots of "scientists" agree with them. The fact that those "scientists" included engineers, biologists, computer scientists and geologists (and yes, some 9,000 purportedly have PhDs, as does my daughter, but she's no climate expert) -- whose expertise is NOT in climate science -- seems unimportant, nor the fact that the paper is full of errors and cherry-picking of facts, according to the climate scientists who edit the RealClimate web site.

But back to the show. If my memory serves me, Colbert commented something like, "that's a relief" and proceeded to ask Lutz about how the car works and whether or not he'd need a 40 mile long extension cord.

"No, we found people kept running over it," Lutz replied, finally getting into the spirit of the interview.

It was all in good humor, of course, except for the global warming bit, but it left me wondering if Lutz has ever watched the Colbert Report, because he seemed clearly off his game (Colbert has a way of doing that to a lot of his guests).

As much as I admire Bob Lutz for championing the Volt program -- and I really hope it's a huge winner for them -- I can't say his appearance on Colbert was his finest hour.

Maybe next time, he'll spend a few evenings before turning in for the night, like I do, and see what Stephen Colbert and John Stewart are all about. He may even come to appreciate why they are often the only real sources of news on cable television.

Bill Moore is the founder and publisher of EV World, and an avid fan of both John Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

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