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Offshore oil drilling more palatable to Californians

July 30, 2008 |  8:01 pm

Offshore_oil_platforms

The idea of opening California's coast to more offshore oil drilling has long been considered the Third Rail of state politics: Touch it at your peril.

Or is it?

A new poll suggests that a slim majority of Californians now favors more oil drilling off the coast, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. The nonpartisan research organization reports today that 51% of residents polled favor more offshore drilling, up from 41% in favor last year.

Spiraling gasoline prices seem to be at play. The institute's survey results also raise the question as to whether the offshore oil push by President Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain is resonating with the public. Democrats call this political posturing and point to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration that concludes that any new offshore drilling would take a decade or more to get underway and even then would have a negligible effect on gas prices.

The poll shows the partisan breakdown in the gusher of new support for offshore drilling. A total of 77% of Republicans favor more drilling, up from 60% in 2007. For independents, it's 44%, compared with 33% a year before. Most Democrats remained opposed. A mere 35% would bless more drilling, compared with 29% a year ago.

"Tough economic times have not diminished the importance of environmental issues for Californians," said Mark Baldassare, president of the institute. "The environment is seen as a matter of health and well-being, and residents don't want to cut corners there."

Eight of 10 Californians believe immediate action should be taken against global warming, and majorities of both parties believe the state should implement the state law that sets goals to slash greenhouse gases, despite a faltering economy.

The same poll revealed that 3 of 4 Californians complain that higher gasoline prices have caused a financial hardship and many are changing their behavior. Californians report that they are driving less, and 74% are considering buying a more fuel-efficient car the next time they go to the dealership -- all of which will help curb greenhouse gas emissions.

-- Kenneth R. Weiss

Photo of oil platforms off Huntington Beach by Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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