It’s got to be one or the other. How else to explain the latest attempt by GM vice Cchairman Bob Lutz to attract attention to himself and his company, which continues to hemorrhage money? “Global warming is a total crock of shit,” Lutz reportedly said told journalists at a Texas restaurant. “I’m a skeptic, not a denier.”
Those bon mots represent one of the most unambiguous denunciations of an entire body of scientific knowledge ever uttered by an American corporate executive. They trounce even Sen. James Inhofe‘s ever-so-slightly hedged claim to have presented “compelling evidence that catastrophic global warming is a hoax” to the U.S. Senate. So what should we make of them?
First, Lutz is a well-known media whore. One industry blogger calls him “GM’s go-to man for one-liners and candid opinion.” The Swiss-born former U.S. marine was a “jet-attack aviator” 50 years ago. Maybe the car industry just isn’t exciting enough for someone used to pulling a few Gs to get his juices flowing. Second, there’s no way to tell whether he actually believes what he says at closed-door briefing sessions for local journalists. Third, it could be that at that particular luncheon he didn’t say anything else that piqued the journos’ attention, so what we get is one out-of-context, off-the-cuff remark to which we should attach very little of meaning.
But the comment did attract a lot of attention. And it does seem to imply that Lutz has no respect for climatology, which as a field of science, has produced a remarkable consensus around the idea the climate change is anything but a crock, and certainly not one characterized by its resemblance to the product of defecation. As for the context, he helps run a company that has gone out of its way to avoid reducing the climate-changing impact of its products —;;;;; physically withdrawing an electric car from the market by refusing to allow lease-holders to buy out their leases, getting way, way behind the hybrid curve and fighting emissions reductions legislation wherever and whenever it can.
Indeed, such is the attention drawn to his comment that Lutz felt compelled to rebut his critics in a blog post of his own, saying his”opinion doesn’t matter” on such subjects, and insisting “General Motors is dedicated to the removal of cars and trucks from the environmental equation” regardless of the scientific merits of anthropogenic climate change theories.
Instead of simply assailing me for expressing what I think, they should be looking at the big picture. What they should be doing, in earnest, is forming opinions not about me but about GM, and what this company is doing that is — and will continue to be — hugely beneficial to the very causes they so enthusiastically claim to support.
Of course, what his critics should be doing is forming opinions based on GM’s track record and the utterances of its top executives. There’s no reason they shouldn’t do both, especially in a corporate culture so corrupted by greenwashing —;;;;; empty promises and propaganda designed to make a company look like it acknowledges the risk posed by the status quo and divert attention away from what’s really going on in the boardroom and on the shop floor.
So let’s take Lutz up on his dare and examine GM’s environmental record over the past few years. When we do, the only evidence that the company gets the threat posed by the climate crisis is the promised Volt plug-in hybrid, something that is more concept than car, despite the fact that the technology to build it has been sitting around for years.
There is one way to reconcile Lutz’s claim of green cred with his company’s history. Maybe Lutz is trying to shame the rest of the board into actually doing something. Maybe, by saying something so incredibly stupid about climate change, he’s trying to prompt his associates to put their words into actions in order to make it clear that they’re not all as stupid as Lutz sounds. Maybe he’s frakkin’ genius.
Maybe. But that’s not the simplest explanation. I think we all know what that is.