Scott Pruitt, President Trump's director of the Environmental Protection Agency, said Thursday he doesn't believe carbon dioxide is the main reason for global warming. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, cars are a major cause of global warming, amounting to 20 percent of all US emissions. Each gallon of gas consumed puts 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Pruitt, who as Oklahoma attorney general and a friend of the oil and gas industry has more than a dozen times sued the agency he now runs, told CNBC in an interview that he "would not agree" that carbon dioxide "is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see," and that "measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact."

The opinion is at odds with the official position of the EPA itself, which states that "carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change," and that since "the Industrial Revolution began around 1750, human activities have contributed substantially to climate change by adding CO2 and other heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere." Pruitt's opinion is also at odds with conclusions from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and atmospheric scientists worldwide.

Pruitt told CNBC "we need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis."

This call for more study comes days after Pruitt and the Trump administration detailed proposals to cut the EPA's Office of Research and Development by 42 percent and eliminate entirely the funding for the U.S. Global Change Research Program - which are part of their proposal to cut the EPA by one-fifth overall, a downpayment on Trump's campaign pledge to "get rid of" the agency.

For his next act, which has been expected any day now, Pruitt will join forces with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and President Bush to announce a rollback in President Obama's mileage and emissions standards for automakers, who have been sprinting to achieve a targeted fleet average of 54 miles per gallon by 2025. He also intends to revoke the so-called "California waiver" that allows that state to enforce tougher emissions standards - requirements on automakers that are emulated by many other states.

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