Bob Franken

Obama Energy Policy: Poll Shows General Support


For the Obama administration, all the uproar over health care seems to have sapped the strength of opponents struggling to block the equally ambitious and equally massive changes to the nation’s energy policy. At least a new poll says so.

In the Washington Post-ABC News Poll, 55 percent of those responding favor the way the president is handling energy policy. That drops a little to 52 percent when measuring support for the cap-and-trade system of controlling greenhouse gases.

Some of that decline can be attributed to an aversion to a program that allows harmful emissions to be spewed by industries buying and selling the necessary permits. It might also reflect resistance from avowed opponents, largely from industry, who argue that the plan would impose an expensive new tax on everyone.

The proposed bill is mind-bogglingly convoluted, to the point of being indecipherable. Even many experts get lost in the twists and turns of legislative compromise. Still, what the poll does seem to show is that a majority of people agrees with the administration that the nation needs to address global warming as a man-made phenomenon, even as it struggles to understand all the complexities that go with possible solutions.

A majority also agrees that environmental changes can be achieved without increasing energy costs or endangering the economy. Eight in ten are attracted to the plan to put at least 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015.

Speaking of cars, the “Cash for Clunkers” program enjoyed wide support. Seven in ten agreed it was effective in putting more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road.

Solar and wind energy continue to enjoy 90 percent support as viable alternative energy sources. The number attracted to nuclear power is 52 percent, but that drops to 35 percent when the “NIMBY” factor is added (as in, sure, build a nuclear plant — but not within 50 miles of my home.”)

So, support for the administration’s energy policy is shown to be widespread, even though the details of that policy are often poorly understood. The president and the nation seem to hold a shared belief that something must be done. He also benefits from the probability that we only have a capacity for so much controversy, which is more than being filled by the bitter fight over health care.

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