President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies plan a major new push for a broad global warming bill, fueled in part by public outrage over the BP disaster, according to top aides.
Joel Benenson, a pollster for the Democratic National Committee and Obama’s presidential campaign, argues in a new briefing for top Capitol Hill officials that a comprehensive energy bill “could give Democrats a potent weapon to wield against Republicans in the fall.”
“The oil spill is intensifying the public’s desire for clean energy investments and increased regulation on corporate polluters,” Benenson writes in the briefing, which he prepared on behalf of the League of Conservation Voters.
“In the aftermath of the spill, people firmly believe Congress needs to do more than just make BP pay. Even when pressed with opposition messaging that now is not the time for some ‘job killing energy tax,’ people coalesce around comprehensive clean energy reform. Consequently, support for a comprehensive energy bill is very high. With the right messaging, that support holds strong in the face of harsh opposition attacks.”
Obama plans to include a call for an energy bill in his Oval Office address about the Gulf on Tuesday night. And the Obama administration has told key senators that “an energy deal must include some serious effort to price carbon as a way to slow climate change,” according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide.
“No traditional ‘energy only’ bill [without climate-change provisions] meets their sense of what’s credible as a response to BP, or the president’s own 2008 rhetoric,” the aide said.
Benenson’s briefing argues that “Making BP Pay Isn’t Enough.” His recommended “messaging architecture”: First, “frame the opposition” as “Big Oil and corporate polluters who have blocked energy reform for decades” and “politicians protecting the special interests that fund their campaigns.” Second, “illustrate the costs of our dependence: … $1 billion a day on foreign oil … Oil spill destroying jobs and livelihoods.” Third, “tap into deeply held values.” “Put America back in control of our energy situation. Cut foreign oil spending in half. Invest in energy that’s made in America and creates millions of jobs for Americans.”
In an Oval Office interview with POLITICO columnist Roger Simon on Friday, the president said the country needs to start “investing in a new way of doing business when it comes to energy.”
“[I]n the same way that our view of our vulnerabilities and our foreign policy was shaped profoundly by 9/11, indelibly by 9/11,” Obama said. “I think this disaster is going to shape how we think about the environment and energy for many years to come. And one of the biggest leadership challenges for me going forward is going to be to make sure that we draw the right lessons from this disaster and that we move forward in a bold way in a direction that finally gives us the kind of future oriented — or the kind of visionary energy policy that we so vitally need and has been absent for so long.”