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Disaster Environmentalism? Gulf Oil Slick Makes Climate Negotiations Slippery, Says Utility Exec

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Even before BP capped the oil spill, the Washington Post declared a loss for environmentalists. It's been three months and we haven't seen a cap on carbon, what gives?

"Traditionally, American environmentalism wins its biggest victories after some important piece of American environment is poisoned, exterminated or set on fire. An oil spill and a burning river in 1969 led to new anti-pollution laws in the 1970s. The Exxon Valdez disaster helped create an Earth Day revival in 1990 and sparked a landmark clean-air law.

"But this year, the worst oil spill in U.S. history -- and, before that, the worst coal-mining disaster in 40 years -- haven't put the same kind of drive into the debate over climate change and fossil-fuel energy."

A few weeks ago we talked to John Pemberton of Southern Company, who says that instead of furthering the debate over a climate bill, the oil spill has stalled it. The emotional power of the disaster will make congressional members less likely to compromise and take "small steps forward. We still have a long term energy debate in congress that is not going to solved with short term political decisions."

The Clean Water Act was passed 28 months after the river fire, 33 months after the oil spill, so the political fallout of the oil spill still has time to develop. Maybe a few months of cleaning up the damage and trying to make things right in the gulf will help congress decide whether or not to move forward with changing the way we use energy.

How will this event affect energy policy -- and politics?

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