In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays a weatherman doomed to relive the same day over again until he can get it right. The movie’s central truth has endured: everyone has issues, moments, problems or events that seem to keep reappearing. One of mine happened again recently, when the Donald Trump Administration floated an auto industry proposal to relax the 2025 greenhouse gas standards for cars.
I can barely tell you how many times I have watched the auto industry mistakenly go down this road, for decades. But this proposal is particularly irksome. I helped write those standards, which double fuel efficiency to 54.5mpg. I was at the 2011 Whitehouse signing ceremony for the regulation — the first federal action specifically targeting greenhouse gas emissions. On a stage set up outside the White House, 13 major automaker CEOs shook hands with President Obama. I thought that they had finally seen the light.
After all, their industry had nearly collapsed during the 2008 economic crisis. It was clear that growth driven by gas-guzzling SUVs was not sustainable. Demand for fuel-efficient cars was rising. So despite their decades of intransigence, embracing standards to double fuel economy over the next dozen years just made sense.
As the standards came into place over the next few years, a new age of automotive innovation unfolded, reminiscent of the days of Karl Benz and Henry Ford.