A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Obama’s Auto Team & ‘The Laws of Physics’


Q:Did the Obama auto team tell a Michigan engineer the government should change “the laws of physics”?

A: This is another Internet tall tale. The supposed source of the story says he has not even met with the Obama task force.

FULL QUESTION:

This one is new. Hope you have time to check it out soon. It is really making the rounds fast.

Thought this was an interesting letter. If they have a messiah, maybe he can change the Laws of physics! He is also planning to invent new technologies that the dumb old auto engineers haven’t been working on fast enough.

Monday morning I attended a breakfast meeting where the speaker/guest was David E. Cole, Chairman Center for Automotive Research (CAR). You have all likely heard CAR quoted, or referred to in the auto industry news lately.

[EET ]

Mr. Cole, who is an engineer by training, told many stories of the difficulty of working with the folks that the Obama administration has sent to save the auto industry. There have been many meetings where a 30+ year experience automotive expert has to listen to a newcomer to the industry, someone with zero manufacturing experience, zero auto industry experience, zero business experience, zero finance experience, and zero engineering experience, tell them how to run their business.

My favorite story is as follows:

There was a team of Obama people speaking to Mr. Cole (Engineer, automotive experience 40+ years, Chairman of CAR). They were explaining to Mr. Cole that the auto companies needed to make a car that was electric and liquid natural gas (LNG) with enough combined fuel to go 500 miles so we wouldn’t “need” so many gas stations (A whole other topic). They were quoting BTU’s of LNG and battery life that they had looked up on some website.

Mr. Cole explained that to do this you would need a trunk FULL of batteries and a LNG tank as big as a car to make that happen and that there were problems related to the laws of physics that prevented them from…

The Obama person interrupted and said (and I am quoting here) “These laws of physics? Who’s rules are those, we need to change that. (Some of the others wrote down the law name so they could look it up) We have the congress and the administration. We can repeal that law, amend it, or use an executive order to get rid of that problem. That’s why we are here, to fix these sort of issues”.

God help us!
[/EET]

FULL ANSWER:

David E. Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., did not tell the story that this latest false e-mail message attributes to him. We contacted him to ask if the story is true, and got this response:

David E. Cole: I have not met with the Obama task force. The reference to “laws of physics” applies to a conversation I had with several congressmen a number of years ago where they suggested we pass a new 2nd law of thermodynamics.

So there you have it. Nobody from the Obama team uttered the words attributed to them in this message. Nevertheless, the false story is being repeated in messages forwarded to us by readers, and on many automotive and political Web sites and blogs.

For the record, we also asked Cole whether those words were even used by the “several congressmen” he refers to (but does not name), but as yet we haven’t received a response on that point. We often hear it argued that some lawmakers wish to require things by regulation that can’t practically be accomplished. We don’t dispute that argument, or endorse it. But we’ve never heard any politician say the “laws of physics” can be repealed by an act of Congress.

-Brooks Jackson