Environment Forum

Washington math: oil spill + climate bill = new environmental polls

May 10, 2010

OIL-RIG/LEAKWith BP’s spilled oil shimmering off the U.S. Gulf Coast, and a re-tooled bill to curb climate change expected to be unveiled this week in the U.S. Senate, what could be more appropriate than a bouquet of new environmental polls? Conducted on behalf of groups that want less fossil fuel use, the polls show hefty majorities favoring legislation to limit emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide.

In the kind of harmonic convergence that sometimes happens inside the Capital Beltway, a new poll released on Monday by the Clean Energy Works campaign showed “overwhelming public support for comprehensive clean energy legislation,” with 61 percent of 2010 voters saying they want to limit pollution, invest in clean energy and make energy companies pay for emitting the carbon that contributes to climate change. A healthy majority — 54 percent — of respondents said they’d be more likely to re-elect a senator who votes for the bill.

Last Friday, the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has been pushing for climate change legislation for years, released its own poll numbers. NRDC’s pollsters found seven in 10 Americans want to see fast-tracked clean energy legislation in the wake of the BP oil spill, and two-thirds say they want to postpone new offshore drilling until the Gulf oil spill is investigated and new safeguards are put in place.

USA/Going back one more day, Rasmussen Reports found that even after the Gulf oil spill began dominating the Web, TV newscasts and newspaper front pages, 58 percent of respondents still favor offshore drilling. That’s a big majority but a 14-point drop from the 72 percent who favored offshore drilling after President Barack Obama announced at the end of March that he was opening new areas to exploratory offshore drilling for the first time in more than two decades.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi directed reporters to a poll by Republicans for Environmental Preservation — a quote on their website reads “Nothing is more conservative than conservation” — that showed 52 percent of Republicans and a similar number people who consider themselves conservatives support a U.S. energy policy to boost domestic energy production and cap carbon emissions.Even among Tea Party respondents, who are generally hostile to what they call big government, the poll found more favored the policy — 47 percent — than the 42 percent who opposed it.

Remember: the oil hasn’t really reached the Gulf Coast yet. And the bill, long delayed, isn’t set for launch until Wednesday. Let’s start counting now to see how many polls on these contentious issues arrive before a) the spill is cleaned up and b) the bill either becomes law or fails to gain congressional approval.

Photo credits: REUTERS/Navy (Oil on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico in an aerial view of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Mobile, Alabama, in this photograph taken from a U.S. Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft on May 6, 2010 and obtained on May 9, 2010)

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (Valero St. Charles oil refinery at refinery in Norco, Louisiana August 15, 2008)

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