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Gulf spill could boost energy reform

I've just obtained an interesting new poll that suggests Dems have a real opportunity to seize on the Gulf spill to make energy reform a major issue, perhaps even in the midterm elections.

The poll strongly supports the view, expressed by Al Gore and many others, that the spill represents a real chance to achieve a fundamental shift in the public conversation on energy reform. It shows how absurd it is that so many in the Senate have decided that the spill should make reform less likely.

The poll -- done for Clean Energy Works, a coalition of environmental groups, by Joel Benenson, who's also Obama's chief pollster -- was sent over by a source, and you can read it right here. Key findings:

* Overall, 61 percent of 2010 voters support and just 31 percent oppose a bill "that will limit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean energy. It would do this in part by charging energy companies for carbon pollution in electricity or fuels like oil."

* 54 percent would be more likely to re-elect their Senator if he or she voted for the bill (just 30 percent would be less likely to re-elect).

* 51 percent would be less likely to re-elect their Senator if he or she voted against the bill (just 30 percent would be more likely).

* 39 percent of voters now say they are more likely to support it in the wake of the oil spill.

Also: The poll tested a key argument by reform foes -- that it would hike gas prices and hurt middle class families -- and found only 31 percent agree.

"The American people think it's more urgent to take action now," Benenson tells me. "Americans don't find credible the scare tactics of those who remain opposed to this. It's a potentially potent issue with Amerian voters. It is kind of issue that for many key constituencies defines the basic values of their elected officials and candidates."

To be sure, one key difficulty still remains: To what extent should expanded offshore drilling still be part of the energy reform solution? Right now, it looks as if the compromise that senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman will unveil later this week will contain a watered down version of it, in order to keep Senate liberals aboard.

It behooves Dems to sort out a compromise energy reform package they can support and start moving on it now. If the above numbers are to be believed, there's a real opportunity to turn the Gulf spill into what Gore called a "consciousness-shifting event." Right now.

By Greg Sargent  |  May 10, 2010; 1:24 PM ET
Categories:  2010 elections , Climate change , Senate Dems  
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Next: Another poll shows Sestak ahead


Like so many important issues, energy reform been kicked down the road for decades. It would be relieving if we could bring something good for our country out of this disaster on our coastline.

Posted by: Beeliever | May 10, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Obama is anti-reactionary. The spill will be viewed a catastrophic aberration which remedy is more regulation rather than less drilling. Already, since the spill, the Fed has allowed 27 waivers to companies in the Gulf:

Posted by: Papagnello | May 10, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

* 54% would be more likely to re-elect their Senator ...
* 51% would be less likely to re-elect their Senator ...

There's something here that I'm not getting. (Not an unusual occurrence.)

Posted by: jzap | May 10, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

jzap -- "more likely" if voted "for"

"less likely" if voted "against"

Posted by: Greg Sargent | May 10, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

The oil lobby scare tactics ain't gonna work this time. Too many folks in the Gulf in other industries are going to lose their jobs due to this spill. The decimation of the Gulf fisheries and tourism is not going to mesh with the big oil narrative.

Obama's decision to back more offshore drilling never did make much sense. It makes no sense at all now.

Posted by: Gasman1 | May 10, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

All, another poll finds Sestak up:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | May 10, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Most of you are too young to remember Nevil Shute's "On the Beach". A terrific novel, perhaps you saw the movie with Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck. It was popular when I was in grade school. The story was based on Australia after an apocalyptic WWIII. The Northern Hemisphere was destroyed by the radiation with no animal or human life remaining. The Australians were stuck waiting until the global air currents brought the radiation to them and they all died. They had months to live.

While it's not life or death, living on the West Coast of Florida is a bit like being in Nevil Shute's novel. We are all simply stuck, waiting for the oil slick to continue it's growth, and for the wind and sea currents to begin distributing it all over the gulf coast, and yes eventually even up the East coast of the U.S.

NOBODY can really tell us how bad this is going to be. Capping the well is left up to BP and their mad scientists. When a company presents a report to Government regulators that says a significant oil spill is so unlikely as to be "virtually impossible" are we really supposed to have faith in ANYTHING they say after 200,000 GALLONS A DAY IN REAL OIL spill into our gulf...alas this is not virtual oil.

The jobs being lost and the way of life of generations of fishermen are not virtual they are real. How do you calculate the cost of wrecking a large swath of our economy into the gallon of gas.

NIMBY MFers! Take your off shore drilling and stick it 5,000 feet up your posteriors.
Has NO ONE done a cost benefit analysis?
The cost of gas might go up another 25 cents to a dollar without additional drilling. Even if it went up 2 dollars a gallon without more gulf drilling..drilling at 5,000 feet in the gulf of Mexico is a BAD DEAL!!!!

For us on the West Coast of Florida..we wait...because this has the VERY REAL possibility of ending our lives as we know them. Kill our largest industry tourism, add in fishing, and you have wrecked our economy. Our offices will be worthless and we'll be upside down in our mortgages.
Our homes will suffer the same fate. Our businesses will suffer as well.

I simply wish I could drill baby drill my fist into the mouth of anybody chanting drill baby drill. MORONS!!! This isn't the first accident or oil spill and it won't be the last. At least on land we have a chance to contain the water..AT 5,000 FEET..WE ARE SCREWED!

Posted by: rukidding7 | May 10, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

"Dems have a real opportunity to seize on the Gulf spill to make energy reform a major issue, perhaps even in the midterm elections."

Greg, you're right. Unfortunately this is the democratic party we're talking about and they're likely to punt this one. They lost their spines after the health care vote. Some of them lost it even before that.

Posted by: SDJeff | May 10, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Yet another example -- see HCR and the public option -- where the American people are far ahead of our so-called leaders in Washington. The country is ready to move forward; the Dark Age GOP enabled by skittish Democrats is holding us back.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 10, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Late to the party, but I agree with you Greg (and wbgonne above me is spot on) that the people's mood does not seem to be transferring properly to our legislators. In other news, we're hiring more people today! Expect to see one new job added to May's numbers from us next month.

Posted by: PaulW99 | May 10, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

This looks like a really interesting tool to get perspective on the size of the spill...

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 10, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Louisiana, this is pretty wild:

Vitter, a Republican, told Louisiana reporters late last month that he had struck a major deal to protect his home state’s oyster industry. Vitter’s office blasted out a press release boasting of the “huge win” he got for the industry, and a headline on a Times-Picayune story had Vitter claiming “victory” in the deal.

Landrieu was none too pleased. There he goes again, she undoubtedly thought — taking credit with Louisiana voters for what she believed was her accomplishment.

The Democrat soon got her revenge: A story in The Courier reported that it was actually Landrieu who helped craft the deal — not Vitter, who the Houma, La., newspaper reported was a mere supporter of her plan.

Asked about the episode late last week, Landrieu suggested it was par for the course that Louisiana’s junior senator was trying to take credit when he probably didn’t deserve it.

I mean... that's not even tolerated in HIGH SCHOOL. The guy is a SENATOR. Unbelievable.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 10, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

A terrific AP story detailing what New Orleans and the Louisiana Coast are up against.

Really scary stuff.

(BTW: That's two really good AP stories I've come across in the past week or so. It'd be nice if AP is stepping up its news quality.)

Posted by: wbgonne | May 10, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

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