Free Markets, Free People
Polling the oil spill
And unfortunately, as Gallup points out, the news isn’t good. But I can’t say it is unexpected:
Between March and today, with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill intervening, Americans’ preferences for prioritizing between environmental protection and energy production have shifted from a somewhat pro-energy stance to an even stronger pro-environment stance.
And the shift isn’t subtle nor are we talking a bare majority:
While Republican voters remained precisely the same in regards to the percentage who gave energy production the nod over environmental protection, the oil spill saw a 13 point swing (for the environment) from independents (58 v 34) and a 15 point swing for Democrats.
The unfortunate thing is this doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. One of the problems faced by BP with this disaster was the fact that it is a deep water well and they had no practiced and tested method of dealing with a blow out in deep water. They’ve been dealing with similar problem in shallower water for deacades, quite successfully I might add.
However, 97% of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is out of bounds, driving the producers of oil into deeper and deeper water. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, the best way to avoid problems like this in deep water is to open up more of the OCS. And no, I have no problem at all with requiring the oil industry to demonstrate their ability to quickly handle a similar situation in shallower water and the clean up as well as a condition of drilling in the OCS.
But at the moment, given the polls, BP and the oil industry in general have a hell of a public relations problem. The fact that the well appears to have been plugged doesn’t lessen the problem as now the massive clean up (and any fouled beaches and marshes) become the focus.
My guess is it will take quite some time to win public support back again. In the meantime, I’d further guess that an administration which has demonized Wall Street, health insurance companies, big Pharma and others, will use this swing in public opinion to go on the offensive against the oil industry as well – all in anticipation of a comprehensive energy bill which will see cap-and-trade as well as new and higher taxes on the oil industry to fund a “contingency fund” for any future problem like we’re experiencing today.
Hold on to your wallets