A study released July 30 by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 51 percent of Californians now favor offshore drilling, a 10-point increase from a year earlier before gasoline and crude oil prices soared. The survey was the institute’s first in which a majority of the state’s residents polled supported drilling and was largely attributable to a surge of Republican support. Seventy-seven percent of Republicans endorsed lifting the moratorium, compared to 35 percent of Democrats. The shift in public opinion and election year campaigning caused Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to reverse their blanket opposition to lifting the moratorium. In the latest House energy bill, Pelosi and other Democrats have proposed opening portions of the outer continental shelf to drilling, providing that oil and gas companies do not receive any taxpayer subsidies to explore and drill. Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne directed the U.S. Interior Department’s Mineral Management Service to prepare a new five-year program for the sale of federal oil and gas leases that will include offshore areas currently protected by the drilling moratorium. The new program will replace the Service’s existing five-year oil and gas lease program which the Interior Department adopted last year. The minerals department is set to conduct an extensive public and environmental review process for the new lease program that will take about two years to complete, giving the new administration a “head start” on offshore oil and gas production, Smith said. Additionally, there is an “annual review” step for the years when a five-year program is in place and a new one is not yet being developed.