03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Clean Energy in 2010: Good Policy and Smart Politics

There is no question that clean energy will be a 2010 election issue, and a politically potent one at that. When the Senate addresses this important bill early next year, incumbents would be wise to vote for it and candidates would be wise to support it.

Recent polling proves there is strong voter support for concrete legislation that creates jobs, reduces carbon pollution and increases energy independence. For example, a recent nationwide CNN poll showed that six in ten Americans support a "cap and trade" proposal to cut pollution.

Additionally, voters recognize that energy reform will have real, tangible benefits. In August, the Benenson Strategy Group, which served as the Obama campaign's chief pollster during the presidential campaign, conducted a poll in 16 battleground states. When asked a question about the impacts of a bill that limits pollution and invests in clean energy, voters believed by a 2-1 margin that the bill would create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Even in Arkansas, where political pundits say clean energy legislation is a hard sell, voters supported a comprehensive energy bill like the House-passed American Clean Energy & Security Act by a substantial 18-point margin, according to a September poll conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group.

What should be most comforting to incumbents and candidates looking ahead to 2010 is that support holds strong even under the most withering and dishonest attacks about the bill. In the Arkansas poll conducted by Benenson Strategy Group, after hearing a statement representing both sides of the argument, support increased to a 19-point margin.

And voters support clean energy in some of the most competitive races in the country. The Pew Environment Group commissioned surveys by Public Opinion Strategies, a leading Republican firm, and the Mellman Group, a leading Democratic firm, of several swing states. The survey produced staggering results: nearly seven out of ten voters in both Ohio and Missouri support a comprehensive plan to reduce global warming emissions and require the use of clean energy sources. Both states have highly competitive open Senate races next year.

Or consider Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA), who was elected last year by just 727 votes in a district that John McCain carried. Congressman Perriello has been championing his vote for the American Clean Energy & Security Act as vital to achieving greater energy independence and creating new economic opportunities. A Pew commissioned survey of his congressional district confirms that the congressman's vote for comprehensive clean energy and climate change is exactly in-line with his constituents, with a solid 70 percent in favor of reducing global warming pollution and boosting our use of clean energy sources. And perhaps most importantly, a convincing 63 percent of voters in this district would vote for a candidate who supported a clean energy jobs and global warming bill over one who opposed it, even after hearing Big Oil's standard exaggerations and half-truths about its impact.

Furthermore, those who side with Big Oil and other corporate polluters over new clean energy jobs for America will likely pay a price for doing so on November 2, 2010. Voters have routinely shown a disdain for candidates who pocket campaign cash from Big Oil and support the industry's more-of-the-same energy policies. Remember, embracing new, clean energy policies while exposing opponents' ties to the greedy oil companies helped propel candidates' victories in 2006 and 2008.

The bottom line is that voters instinctively believe that new energy policies -- including a limit on carbon pollution -- will provide positive benefits for the economy and our security. Next year, candidates would be well served to recognize that support for clean energy and climate legislation represents the convergence of good policy and smart politics.