Support for energy reform (for now)

SUPPORT FOR ENERGY REFORM (FOR NOW)…. At some point in the next few months, federal policymakers will again shift their attention to energy policy. Despite the complaints about the House-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), also known as Waxman-Markey, public support for these efforts looks fairly strong, at least for now.

Most Americans approve of the way President Obama is handling energy issues and support efforts by him and Democrats in Congress to overhaul energy policy — including the controversial cap-and-trade approach to limiting greenhouse gas emissions, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Even as public support has slipped for Obama’s health-care proposals, support for ambitious changes in energy policy has been steady. Although the issue of health care arouses more intense feelings than energy policy does, those who do feel strongly about energy and climate policy tend to tilt toward the administration’s position and a broad majority of people echo Democratic lawmakers’ views on the benefits of proposed changes.

Nearly six in 10 of those polled support the proposed changes to U.S. energy policy being developed by Congress and the administration. Fifty-five percent of Americans approve of the way Obama is handling the issue, compared with 30 percent who do not. A narrower majority, 52 to 43 percent, back a cap-and-trade system; that margin is unchanged since June.

The appetite for change has low thresholds. If the plan to reduce greenhouse emissions cost an extra $10 a month, 58% of Americans are comfortable with that. If it cost an extra $25 a month, support drops to $39%. (Proposals backed by Democrats are expected to cost less than $10 a month.)

That said, the public’s instincts seem to be on the right track: “Fewer than one in five say that the reform efforts would lead to job losses; more than twice as many see added jobs.”

Support for government action to develop more solar and wind power is up to 91%, and federal efforts to develop electric car technology is 82%. Asked about “requiring more energy conservation by businesses and industries,” 78% support government action, 62% of them “strongly.”

So, this is all pretty encouraging, right? For now, yes. What happens, though, when the coal industry and Fox News decide that energy reform will require child sacrifices and human cannibalism? What happens when the Council on American Goodness runs ads saying that President Obama’s energy policies will make it illegal for families to use the bathroom?

I’m delighted support for Democratic energy policies is strong. I’m concerned, however, that the support could disappear, now that right-wing and corporate activists have learned how to shake up the policy landscape.