Biden's warning on oil tests voter resolve on climate change

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden gestures while speaking during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Joe Biden is confronting the harsh political realities of combating climate change.

The Democratic presidential nominee has spent months touting a $2 trillion plan to boost investment in clean energy and stop all climate-damaging emissions from the U.S. economy by 2050. The plan implied that he would wean the U.S. off oil and gas, but Biden wasn't so explicit about the industry's fate — until Thursday night.

During the final moments of the presidential debate, Biden said he would “transition away from the oil industry.”

President Donald Trump, trailing Biden in many national and battleground state polls, immediately sensed an opportunity to appeal to voters in competitive states like Texas and Pennsylvania that produce oil and gas.

“Basically what he is saying is he is going to destroy the oil industry,” Trump said. “Will you remember that, Texas? Will you remember that, Pennsylvania? Oklahoma? Ohio?”

With less than two weeks until the election, Biden's comment is prompting a sudden test of whether voters who increasingly say they are worried about the climate crisis will embrace steps to confront it. During a season of worsening wildfires, hurricanes and other disasters, scientists are issuing urgent warnings that big cuts in burning oil, gas and coal are needed right away.

Republicans, eager to shift focus away from the president's handling of the intensifying coronavirus pandemic, say Biden's plan would cost jobs.

Biden “just killed paycheck(s) earned by hardworking families in Texas,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, tweeted after Thursday’s final presidential debate saw Trump and Biden spell out their worlds-apart stances on climate-damaging fossil fuels.