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Energy: After BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, federal and state governments moved quickly to shelve plans to drill off the U.S. coast. But a new poll taken after the spill suggests Americans still support drilling.

Preliminary results of an IBD/TIPP Poll of 795 U.S. adults, taken from April 30 to May 5, show that a large majority — 59% — approve of "oil exploration and drilling in America's national territorial waters." Just 31% said they disapprove.

Interestingly, the share who approve of offshore drilling has fallen only a bit since the last time we polled Americans on this topic in July 2008. Back then, 64% supported offshore drilling — while 25% disapproved — for a swing of just five percentage points.

Why do people still support drilling? The oil spill notwithstanding, Americans are tired of $85 a barrel oil and understand that the panaceas for our energy ills peddled by the green movement and the left — wind, solar, biomass — are still years off, if ever, from being economically viable.

p05062010The cold reality is we need oil. A retreat from drilling would be economically unwise. BP's mess must be put into perspective.

"We get more than a fifth of our domestic production of oil here in the U.S. from off the Gulf Coast, over a million barrels a day," says the American Enterprise Institute's Steve Hayward. "If we don't continue that ... we'll be importing more oil to make up for it, even if consumption stays flat."

Today, the U.S. uses about 21 million barrels of oil a day. But we produce only about a third of that. The rest is imported. All told, including Mexico, a third of our oil and gas comes from the Gulf.

Simply, there is no ready-to-use energy source now available to replace millions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of gas.

We need oil to fuel our economy — literally. Energy consumption directly correlates to GDP growth. And by 2030, the world's thirst for oil is expected to rise by more than 23%, according to the Department of Energy. Barring an unforeseen breakthrough in energy, we will need every bit of energy we can get to grow.

Average Americans understand this. They know offshore drilling rigs have a far lower risk of oil spills than do tankers. And they probably also know that even if this spill exceeds the Exxon Valdez spill, it will still only be about the 40th worst in the last 40 years.

The most tragic part of the April 30 accident was the death of 11 men. We mourn those lost. But the environment will heal.

As for those who will exploit this to oppose drilling, we ask: What part of your modern life and comforts will you give up? Your car? Central heating? Refrigerator? Computer? Your food, shipped long-distance with oil and diesel burning trucks and trains?

As our poll shows, Americans are well aware of the need for more oil, and that more drilling is the way to get it.

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