Sometimes the common sense of the American people bursts onto the political scene and changes the conventional wisdom in Washington. Such is the case with offshore drilling and may soon be the case with global warming policy.

After all, throughout 2001-2006, a Republican congressional majority working with a Republican oil man president couldn’t change the provisions that keep 85 percent of our territorial waters off limits to oil and natural gas exploration and drilling. So what were the chances when the Democrats, many of whom are strongly opposed to increased domestic drilling, took control of the House and Senate in 2007? The Democratic leadership’s litany of excuses why offshore drilling is a bad idea –too little energy to make a difference, too long to be brought online, horrific environmental risks – seemed to pass for conventional wisdom in Washington and in the media, at least for a while.

But gasoline prices continued upward and a funny thing happened. The public saw through the anti-drilling rhetoric and recognized that increased domestic production is a good idea. Polling showed large majorities in favor, sometimes more than 2 -1. The Congressional leadership is struggling mightily to avoid a vote on opening these areas, but won’t be able to do so for much longer. Unless current gas price declines accelerate enough to take gas prices off the front burner, expect a big showdown in September over an issue most thought would have been long dead.

Something similar may be happening with global warming policy. The conventional wisdom in Washington is that a massive government cap and trade bill is inevitable, and both Presidential candidates have expressed support for such a measure.
But, as with the anti-drilling arguments, the public doesn’t appear to be buying the conventional wisdom. Polling shows that few consider global warming a crisis, and fewer still see it as a justification for costly measures that would raise energy costs and kill manufacturing jobs. And they are right.

If the public is loud enough and clear enough, Washington takes notice. It is happening now on offshore drilling, and may soon happen on global warming policy.