I've just obtained an interesting new poll that suggests Dems have a real opportunity to seize on the Gulf spill to make energy reform a major issue, perhaps even in the midterm elections.
The poll strongly supports the view, expressed by Al Gore and many others, that the spill represents a real chance to achieve a fundamental shift in the public conversation on energy reform. It shows how absurd it is that so many in the Senate have decided that the spill should make reform less likely.
The poll -- done for Clean Energy Works, a coalition of environmental groups, by Joel Benenson, who's also Obama's chief pollster -- was sent over by a source, and you can read it right here. Key findings:
* Overall, 61 percent of 2010 voters support and just 31 percent oppose a bill "that will limit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean energy. It would do this in part by charging energy companies for carbon pollution in electricity or fuels like oil."
* 54 percent would be more likely to re-elect their Senator if he or she voted for the bill (just 30 percent would be less likely to re-elect).
* 51 percent would be less likely to re-elect their Senator if he or she voted against the bill (just 30 percent would be more likely).
* 39 percent of voters now say they are more likely to support it in the wake of the oil spill.
Also: The poll tested a key argument by reform foes -- that it would hike gas prices and hurt middle class families -- and found only 31 percent agree.
"The American people think it's more urgent to take action now," Benenson tells me. "Americans don't find credible the scare tactics of those who remain opposed to this. It's a potentially potent issue with Amerian voters. It is kind of issue that for many key constituencies defines the basic values of their elected officials and candidates."
To be sure, one key difficulty still remains: To what extent should expanded offshore drilling still be part of the energy reform solution? Right now, it looks as if the compromise that senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman will unveil later this week will contain a watered down version of it, in order to keep Senate liberals aboard.
It behooves Dems to sort out a compromise energy reform package they can support and start moving on it now. If the above numbers are to be believed, there's a real opportunity to turn the Gulf spill into what Gore called a "consciousness-shifting event." Right now.