Thomas Zielin inserts a probe into the tailpipe of a car while performing an emissions test in San Francisco, Calif. A reported delay in cleaner fuels could harm the new engines designed to burn it. - 

Stacey Vanek-Smith: The Obama administration may put off tighter pollution rules for gasoline. The Environmental Protection Agency isn't confirming it but both environmentalists and industry players suspect the agency's holding off because of election-year politics.

Sarah Gardner reports.

Sarah Gardner: The new rules would force refiners to cut the sulfur content of gasoline. That would make for cleaner car emissions and less smog, says Frank O’Donnell at Clean Air Watch. But it also could raise gasoline prices, a touchy subject for the president right now.

Frank O’Donnell: And we’re concerned that the White House has gotten cold feet, that the White House literally is too scared to do the right thing here.

And automaker fear they’ll be expected to meet stricter clean car standards without the help of cleaner gasoline. That puts an undue burden on the auto industry, says Gloria Bergquist of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

Gloria Bergquist: First of all, it means that automakers would bear the cost of putting more technology on vehicles. And then, the worst part is, this technology could be disabled, by the fuels that are available today.

Automakers say it’s only fair that oil refiners bear some of the costs of getting cleaner cars on the road as well.

I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

Follow Sarah Gardner at @RadioGardner