With gasoline prices exceeding $5/gallon in parts of the state, Californians are pushing back at the pump and softening their historic reluctance toward additional nuclear generating plants, offshore drilling and liquefied natural gas (LNG) development, according to a new Field Poll.

For the first time since the 1970s, half Californians polled support building more nuclear power plants, the poll found. The latest Field Poll, which has been surveying Californians’ opinions for more than four decades, showed that 63% of the state’s citizens want shipping terminals to import LNG, a report in the San Francisco Chronicle said. “Fifty-one percent still oppose offshore drilling, but that opposition appears to be softening.”

Field’s last polling on offshore drilling in 2005 turned up 56% of respondents opposing it.

Some 68% of those polled this time around said that high gasoline prices have caused them to spend less money in other areas, and 43% said they favor allowing oil companies to drill along the state’s coast, compared with 39% who said that three years earlier.

The Chronicle report said the poll also shows that Californian generally have not lost their environmental leanings, indicating that 70% in the latest Field Poll support the state’s tough air pollution standards, and it quotes Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo as characterizing the 51% still opposed to offshore drilling as “significant” considering the current context of record-high fuel prices for oil, natural gas and gasoline.

“Nuclear power doesn’t contribute to global warming, and it’s seen as a remedy to the situation, whereas offshore drilling is more of the same,” DiCamillo told the Chronicle.

The latest Field Poll findings are based on interviews of 809 registered California voters during the first full week in July (7-13).

California oil industry officials welcomed a “softening” of the general public’s attitude toward offshore drilling, even if a majority still opposes it. They see this as progress and support of President Bush’s call for more offshore work.

Bush Monday issued an executive order removing the executive ban on oil and natural gas drilling in much of the federal Outer Continental Shelf (see Daily GPI, July 15).

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