Thursday, May 27, 2010

Public Reacts to Gulf Spill With Increased Support for Environmental Protection

It's hard to defend the free market when you have environmental degradation on this scale (click image to enlarge):

"A young heron sits dying amidst oil splattering underneath mangrove on an island impacted by oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Barataria Bay, along the the coast of Louisiana on Sunday, May 23, 2010." (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

And from NYT, "Estimates Suggest Spill Is Biggest in U.S. History."

Consequently, at Gallup, "Oil Spill Alters Views on Environmental Protection: Majority now favors protecting environment over developing energy supplies" (via Memeorandum):

The recent oil spill has spurred a significant shift in Americans' environmental attitudes. For the last few years, Americans' environmental concerns declined as the public placed a higher priority on pocketbook concerns like the economy and energy, likely due to the poor U.S. economy. However, in just two months' time, that trend has reversed, and the pro-environment position has regained the strength it showed for most of the last decade.
Gallup's data show Democrats and independents leaning much more heavily toward environmental protection, but, interestingly, the crisis is not shaping up as a political winner for President Obama. The administration's horrendous response to the disaster has to take the cake for bureaucratic ineptitude. The resignation of S. Elizabeth Birnbaum as Director of the Mineral Management Service should be the beginning of a clean-up operation at the White House. Why not fire both DHS Secretary Janet Incompetano and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as well? Also noteworthy is the fact that once the crisis recedes from the headlines, we'll see support for increasing energy supplies domestically, and especially development of "on land" locations such as ANWR. Sarah Palin's been making the case, but it's clear by now that, without pushback and rebuttal, the left's anti-market totalitarianism will harm the economy, damage workers, and reduce American competitiveness and innovation. You can't blame conservatives for blind faith in markets over regulation, since even Rand Paul's libertarianism represents the far side of the ideological continuum. Tea partiers, for example, aren't reflexively anti-government. The issue has always been good government and smaller government, and the media's sick caricatures have done little to discredit the idea that massive spending and bailout mania under the Democrats represents the wave of the future. We'll have continuing support for regulation, just smarter and more innovative regulatory intervention in markets to safely unlock the potential of our natural resources. That's not to say this crisis doesn't represent a turning point. But in which direction will we turn? We're nowhere near energy independence (so the left has a lot of disaster-cheeering still to do in addition to developing a "green economy"). And we're already a nation where public employment is becoming more lucrative and widespread than that of the private sector. So yeah, it's a turning point --- and over time, hopefully, a turn for the better, cleaner, smarter and more productive --- since no nation can sustain such imbalances indefinitely. (But for a contrasting whacked nutroots example, see Jamelle Bouie at Matthew Yglesias' blog).