In my previous post, I analyzed the political implications of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. Since this question has drawn a lot of attention, it may be useful to dig deeper.
1) According to most pundits, the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster will harm the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman climate bill under consideration. The offshore drilling provisions in the climate bill were designed to build Republican support, but the problem was that many Democrats opposed them. This opposition is adamant now.
2) While the oil disaster may help build political support for clean energy, the November elections will almost certainly shift the power balance in favor of the fossil fuel lobby. Even if the oil disaster empowers the clean energy movement, it is not clear that this will result in concrete policy change anytime soon.
3) These considerations show that, again, proponents of clean energy might end up disappointed. The opportunity to pass a climate bill now is probably lost, and the next two years are not particularly promising.
4) These events may nonetheless offer a useful lesson: it is not easy to pass a climate bill if political support to it is relatively broad but shallow. Democrats tried to pass it by offering concessions to the few centrist Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, but this strategy proved vulnerable. As Denis Hayes argues, environmentalists should focus on building “intense” support for clean energy and climate policy, so that a large number of voters would categorically reject any candidate that is not willing to support new policies. Given the Gulf oil disaster, I would put my money on this strategy.