Workers walk toward Halliburton Co. "sand castles" at an Anadarko Petroleum Corp. hydraulic fracturing (fracking) site north of Dacono, Colo. The U.S. shale boom that's brought the country closer to energy self-sufficiency than at any time since the 1980s will be challenged in 2015 as never before as the benchmark U.S. crude price has fallen.

Bloomberg News/ Jamie Schwaberow

A Monday meeting promoted as a discussion of how low oil prices affect the local economy turned into a rallying cry against new and proposed oil regulations.

There was some talk of why prices have fallen by half since June, and how that leads to layoffs and lower tax receipts for local government.

But the event's three industry speakers focused more on economic challenges posed by oil field regulations intended to protect the environment.

"The falling barrel prices are just one issue that we're facing," said one of the speakers, Nick Ortiz, a representative of the Western States Petroleum Association trade group.

He joined local oil producer Chad Hathaway and Blair Knox, representing the California Independent Petroleum Association, in urging county residents to show their support for the industry by joining oil-friendly groups or attending government meetings where regulations are discussed.

Regulations tend to raise oil producers' costs, which makes Californian crude less competitive on the global market, the speakers explained. They addressed new rules regarding the well stimulation technique known as hydraulic fracturing, laws limiting greenhouse gas emissions, the likelihood of new groundwater regulations affecting oil and gas production, and Kern County's efforts to turn local oil permitting into a strictly ministerial process.

Prodded by an event moderator to make a prediction about prices, Hathaway said he expects to see oil selling at $75 per barrel within 18 months.

He also recalled working in the industry when oil was selling at about $15 per barrel, which he said makes the current level of about $50 look strong by comparison.

"We're gonna be OK," he said.

About 100 people attended the breakfast meeting organized by the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by local oil producer Aera Energy LLC.

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