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Biden says he worries that cutting oil production too fast will hurt working people

President Biden spent three days in Rome talking to world leaders before and during the G-20. He held a formal press conference before heading to the UN climate summit in Glasgow.
Brendan Smialowski
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden spent three days in Rome talking to world leaders before and during the G-20. He held a formal press conference before heading to the UN climate summit in Glasgow.

President Biden said on Sunday that the world can't immediately stop using oil and said OPEC and Russia need to pump more of it, even as he pushes the world to pledge to cut climate-changing carbon emissions at the Glasgow climate summit this week.

After three days of meeting with world leaders in Rome, where he attended the G-20 summit, Biden said he is worried that surging energy costs are hurting working class families.

"On the surface it seems like an irony," Biden said of simultaneously calling on major oil producers to pump more as he heads to the COP26 climate change summit. "But the truth of the matter is ... everyone knows that idea that we're going to be able to move to renewable energy overnight ... it's just not rational," he said.

Biden said the idea that Russia, Saudi Arabia and other producers are holding back to boost prices "is not right." With gas prices averaging $3.40 a gallon in the United States, according to AAA, Biden said families are feeling it.

"It has profound impact on working class families just to get back and forth to work," Biden said. He talked about the issue with other major oil-consuming countries at the G-20, but told reporters he was reluctant to reveal any of their plans to spur producers to pump more.

Biden says he isn't worried about his sagging approval ratings

Surging gas and grocery prices and supply chain snarls have prompted concerns among Americans about the state of the U.S. economy, even as unemployment continues to improve and wages rise.

Biden's approval rating has sunk well below 50%. An NBC News poll released Sunday that found 70% of Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction, 8 points worse than in August, a moment when Biden's fortunes really began to slide because of the surge in COVID-19 cases and the chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Asked about his poll numbers, Biden said "the polls are going to go up and down and up and down," adding that he didn't seek the presidency for the ratings.

He says he's confident his big legislative package will soon pass

Biden said he's confident the U.S. can meet his goal of cutting U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2030 from 2005 levels, even though a key climate measure was cut out of the legislative package currently before Congress. He said that sweeping package of climate measures and social safety net spending, combined with the infrastructure bill passed by the Senate, together contain $900 billion in climate and resilience measures.

Lawmakers within his own party have struggled to agree on the scope and cost of his plan. "It's going to pass in my view — but we'll see," he said, saying a vote could happen soon.

He acknowledge that climate activists found the G-20 agreement on climate measures underwhelming, but blamed Russia, China and Saudi Arabia for not making commitments. "I found it disappointing myself," he said.

In Rome, Biden expounds on his relationship with Pope Francis

President Biden leaves the Vatican on Oct. 29 after visiting Pope Francis.
Tiziana Fabi / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden leaves the Vatican on Oct. 29 after visiting Pope Francis.

Biden spoke at length about his meeting on Friday with Pope Francis. Biden finds himself at the center of a debate among American Catholic leaders about whether the Catholic president should continue to receive communion, because his stance in favor of abortion rights conflicts with the church's position.

Biden had told reporters the pope told him he was a "good Catholic" and should continue to receive communion. Asked how that made him feel and whether it should put the debate to rest, Biden said "a lot of this is just personal," explaining that Francis had "provided great solace" after the death of his son Beau Biden in 2015.

"He is just a fine, decent honorable man," Biden said of Pope Francis. "He is everything I learned about Catholicism from the time I was a kid going from grade school through high school."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.