Handicapping Cap and Trade

August 28th

The politics in Washington over the energy and environmental policy choices that are contained in the cap and trade bill may be fierce, but the public is less decisive and still generally supportive.  A new poll (8/17/09) by Washington Post /ABC News that has just been released shows that President Obama would seem to have stronger support for his general energy policy direction (57%-29%) than for his handling of the economy (52%) or health care (46%).  As has been widely reported his approval rating has fallen since February (68% down to 57%).

What’s more on the core tracking poll where the question is asked, “would you say that things are generally on the right track or are they headed in the wrong direction” (now summarized in pollster.com) it had appeared this summer that the President was likely to reverse the “wrong direction” majority. But even that trend seems to be reversing itself and the negative forces seem to be gaining ground again.

So in the context of sliding support, the idea that energy policy has 20 points more support than George Bush in 2005 must seem to be a positive sign.  A plurality (41%) believe that the energy policy will add jobs in their state (the poll was taken before Toyota announced the closure of the plant in Freemont, California in site of the cash for clunkers program).  A majority (52%) believes that the energy policy will help with global warming.

A majority continues to support the “cap and trade” bill although the support is slipping now that there is some understanding of cap and trade as a public policy issue.  And the public is willing to support cap and trade even if it increases the cost of electricity, although the majority seems to evaporate when the increase in monthly bills goes from $10 to $25.

All in all, the news seems to support the assessments of researchers such as Oxford Analytica  reported in Forbes that cap and trade is only a little better than 50/50 to pass the Senate.  The fall’s run up to Copenhagen will increase the drum beat (and the need for the President to have credibility internationally.  In spite of other pressing priorities, the cap and trade bill may assume even greater significance.)  Say tuned.

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