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Has Climate Policy Become More Popular Than Health Care?

Obama's health care agenda may be staggering in the polls of late, but a new Washington Post-ABC survey finds that 57 percent of Americans still, at least, support Obama's energy policies, with just 29 percent opposed. Even the cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases, easily the most contentious part of the House climate bill, gets majority support: 52 percent back it, 43 percent don't. Likewise, 52 percent figure Democratic energy policies will either decrease energy prices or make no difference.

Now, presumably Obama's energy ideas are faring better than health care because they're not the top target right now. Perhaps if Republicans were spending all August savaging climate policy instead of health care, you'd see different results. But then again, the GOP spent much of the early summer denouncing the House climate bill as "cap-and-tax" and predicting economic Armageddon, so maybe this public support is fairly robust. Support among independents has even ticked up slightly since the House debate. And these poll numbers do jibe with the conventional wisdom on energy issues: Clean energy is as popular as cute kittens, while the public is more leery of carbon pricing, though not adamantly opposed.

No surprise, enthusiasm for cap-and-trade depends on how much it would raise electricity prices: According to the poll, if electricity bills go up just $10 per month or less under the cap, 58 percent of Americans will support the policy. If the bill hike hits $25 per month, support falls to just 39 percent. For context, the EPA estimated that, thanks to the House climate bill's energy-efficiency measures, consumer electric bills would actually be 7 percent lower in 2020. (Overall, when you factor in gas and the rise in prices for consumer goods, the average American would be paying about $80 to $111 extra per year by 2020 under the House bill.)

Meanwhile, as Keith Johnson points out, it's interesting to see how Americans feel about individual energy sources. Renewables get 91 percent support. People seem to be excited about electric cars—81 percent with the thumbs up. Oil and gas is still riding high at 64 percent. And nuclear and coal both clock in at just 52 percent support.

(Flickr photo credit: kekika)