WASHINGTON—President Trump's wholesale assault on his predecessor's climate change policies now is fully visible. And that could put auto makers in a bind.
The most recent move came last week, when the Environmental Protection Agency proposed weakening inspection rules designed to prevent leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, at oil and gas wells. In August, the agency published its intention to scale back President Obama's Clean Power Plan for reducing carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants. The Interior Department also is expected to cancel a restriction on intentional venting and burning of methane from drilling operations.
Meanwhile, the administration is working to lower emissions and fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles built next decade.
It's no surprise. Trump and his top advisers reject the scientific consensus that humans are the main cause of global warming. Their highest priority is reducing red tape and costs for business.
So much so that they're willing to live with an ideological contradiction: The Trump administration wants to assert federal supremacy to set nationwide air-quality regulations when it comes to auto emissions, but for methane emissions, it is happy to have state-level standards apply instead of federal ones. Whatever it takes to make the standards turn out more lax than they were before.
But it's unclear how much auto business will benefit from relaxing standards for tailpipe emissions. To some observers, the biggest winners are petroleum companies that will be able to sell more oil and gasoline.