Considering a Clean Energy Economic Stimulus Bill


Image via US Coast Guard

In the wake of the ongoing BP Gulf spill, public support continues to drop off for offshore drilling and to rise for clean energy development. Elsewhere, the economic recovery continues to be slow and painful, and job growth is stagnating. Gallup just conducted a poll asking voters about a number of policy ideas that may be taken up soon -- among them, whether they think another economic stimulus plan is needed, and whether they feel energy companies should be regulated to fight climate change. Americans supported both ideas, but by margins that may be too small to inspire Congress to act. So what if the two were rolled together into a single bill?You might remember all that talk of a 'Green New Deal' in late 2008 and early 2009 -- many progressives and enviros hoped that Obama would take the opportunity to jump-start the US economy with some sort of green jobs program and far-reaching support for clean energy technology. This of course never materialized, at least not to the extent that most had hoped.

Now, many economists say that we need another stimulus, that the first one was too small -- even though it prevented the worst. As you can see in the numbers from the latest Gallup poll, American voters would support additional stimulus by a sizable margin:


And there's also more support for climate legislation than against -- yet the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill is languishing in the Senate. However, as Kevin Drum notes, there are two major caveats: first, questions are phrased pretty poorly, and don't account for any negative qualities associated with either. Second, those margins still aren't big enough to approach the sort of popular support that typically motivates Congress to act. Crappy as that may be, it's the political reality.

Which is why, by my not-so expert calculations, there should be an opportunity to draft a bill that kills two birds with one stone. With anti-fossil fuel sentiment at a simmering high, there's arguably no better time to push for clean energy legislation -- including a massive green jobs provision that put people to work on projects that reduce our dependence on petroleum (on high speed rail lines, et al) to kick the clean energy transition into gear. Create jobs, reduce our dependence on oil, secure our energy future, give folks an outlet to channel their discontent with BP -- sounds pretty good on paper, right?

More on the BP Gulf Spill Politics
BP Gulf Spill May Cause Loss of 1 Million Jobs
Breaking Down the BP Gulf Spill Blame Game

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