January 14, 2010 at 2:12 pm

With video

Climategate panel: Are green auto rules based on flawed science?

Participants in the climate debate, from left: Frank Beckmann, moderator, WJR; Pat Michaels, climatologist, George Mason University; Skip Pruss, Governor’s Chief Energy Officer, State of Michigan; Kathryn Clay, Director of Research, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; Myron Ebell, Director, Energy and Global Warming, Competitive Enterprise Institute; Congressman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), House Energy Committee; Henry Pollack, Climatologist, University of Michigan. (Henry Payne / The Detroit News)

Detroit - The auto industry's green efforts to meet strict new mpg rules are the dominant theme inside the 2010 North American International Auto Show. But outside Cobo Center, it's not just the frigid winter temperatures that have cast doubt on global warming science that is driving the biggest regulatory challenge to the industry in a generation. E-mails leaked from the world's top climatology center in England have exposed influential scientists doctoring data and suppressing scientific debate. Some in Congress have demanded an investigation.

On Tuesday before a Detroit Athletic Club audience in downtown Detroit, The Detroit News and WJR Radio brought together leaders from the fields of climatology, energy politics, and the auto industry to debate whether the so-called Climategate scandal has undermined auto regulations.

In a spirited, sometimes contentious debate moderated by radio talk show host and Detroit News op-ed columnist Frank Beckmann of WJR, the panel left no doubt that there is little consensus on global warming.

Renowned climatologists Patrick Michaels of George Mason University and Henry Pollack of the University of Michigan -- both members of the United Nations climate panel and both the subject of Climategate e-mails -- disagreed sharply on the science. Pollack stated that the United States has dangerously turned the atmosphere into an "open sewer," while Michaels warned that climate change has been overstated and that Washington's solutions are worse than the disease.

Skip Pruss, chief energy advisor to green Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, said that government climate regulation had "already left the station," giving the state -- and the country -- the opportunity to be reborn as a post-carbon economy. Michigan Congressman Fred Upton, on the other hand, said the costs of such a transition would not only cripple Michigan's economy but that it is folly to believe a developed economy can run on renewable energy.

If Washington's new fuel-efficiency mandates are enforced, Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute argued, the average, 35 mpg-mandated car would look like a Smart -- which saw a 40 percent sales decline in 2009. Research director Dr. Kathryn Clay of the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, an industry group, countered that automakers have the technology to combat global warming -- but that government would need to increase the price of gas to make them marketable.

But on the question of whether new mpg standards would actually achieve their stated purpose of reversing global warming, Michaels seemed to have the last word. Even if every country adopted the green goal of 80 percent emissions reductions by 2050, he said, temperatures would decline a mere seven percent less than predicted.

Panelist bios for "Climategate: Are Green Auto Rules Based on Flawed Science?"

Fred Upton: Republican Congressman Fred Upton has served Michigan's 6th Congressional district for 23 years. He is co-chair of the Congressional Auto Caucus and is senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee

on Energy and Environment. Prior to his election to Congress in 1986, Upton worked for President Ronald Reagan in the Office of Management and


Skip Pruss: Pruss serves under Governor Jennifer M. Granholm as director of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth and as the state's Chief Energy Officer. He oversees the workforce and economic development efforts to prepare for Michigan's new energy economy. He has previously served the governor as Deputy Director of the Department of Environmental Quality. A veteran of natural resource law, he was Assistant Attorney General in Charge of Michigan's Consumer Protection Division and was selected by the American Bar Association for the Mary C. Lawton Award for Outstanding Government Service. He is a graduate of University of Michigan and Wayne State University Law School.

Pat Michaels: Michaels is currently a Distinguished Senior Fellow in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University. During his 30-year tenure as professor of Environmental Sciences at University of Virginia, he was president of the American Association of State Climatologists and program chair for the Committee on Applied Climatology of the American Meteorological Society. His work has been published in many major scientific journals, and was awarded climate "Paper of the Year" by the Association of American Geographers in 2004.

Michaels, a warming critic, was the target of some of the leaked East Anglia emails apparently trying to marginalize dissent. Michaels holds degrees in biological sciences and plant ecology from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in ecological climatology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Henry Pollack: Pollack is Professor of Geophysics (Emeritus) in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Michigan. Pollack has served on many advisory panels for the National Science Foundation, and provided briefings about climate change to Congress and the White House. He has published widely in scientific journals, is a Contributing Author to the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report, and a science advisor to former Vice-President Al Gore's Climate Project.

Several of the leaked East Anglia climate e-mails were authored by Mr. Pollack, and others discussed his research. He is the author of "Uncertain Science...Uncertain World (Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Myron Ebell: Ebell is director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. His work is widely read in publications such as The Wall Street Journal and Forbes, and he has testified before eight House and Senate committees. He has been both honored as a member of Business Insider's Top Ten List of Most-Respected Global Warming Skeptics, and condemned by Greenpeace in its Field Guide to Climate Criminals. An Oregon native, Ebell holds a masters degree from the London School of Economics.

Kathryn Clay: Dr. Clay is Director of Research for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, where she works to develop advanced vehicle technologies for sustainable mobility. Previously, she worked as a staff member of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where she helped craft the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. She has also served as a research fellow in the Alternate Fuels Vehicle Division of Ford Motor Company. She is an adjunct professor of physics at Georgetown University.

She holds a Ph. D. in physics and a masters in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan.

Frank Beckmann, moderator: Beckmann is host of the "Frank Beckmann Show" WJR, Metro Detroit's top-rated talk show. In 2006, the Michigan Association of Broadcasters awarded him Broadcast Personality of the Year, and he has won the Detroit Press Club Foundation's Michigan Excellence in Journalism award. His news career began at WJR in 1972 where his hard-hitting reporting won him numerous awards, including the National Headliner. He is also the beloved play-by-play voice of University of Michigan football, which dates back to his days as WJR's sports director where he was lead announcer for the Detroit Lions, Detroit Tigers. A Michigan native, Frank was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall Of Fame in 2008.

Henry Payne, panel organizer: Payne is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated editorial cartoonist and a writer for The Detroit News. As a writer, he is a regular contributor to National Review on environmental, economic, and automotive issues. His work has also appeared The Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard magazine, and other publications. His cartoons are internationally distributed by United Feature Syndicate in New York. A 25-year journalism veteran, he is a graduate of Princeton University.