SACRAMENTO — The end of oil.

Fighting words for a lot of folks. 

The end of Kern County's lifeblood. The end of Kern County's historical identity, of its calloused-hands persona, of its proud role as the literal engine of American mobility.

Telling Kern County that California has reached the end of oil is like telling a cowboy to go home because the cattle drive has no more cattle. What now? A cowboy has to feed his family.

But Tuesday in Sacramento, that reality — perhaps unfathomable in Bakersfield, where Once a Driller, Always a Driller has crossed over school boundaries for six generations — was placed squarely on the table. At a public hearing hosted by the California Environmental Protection Agency, the end of oil sounded like fait accompli.

The latest state budget includes $3 million for a pair of $1.5 million studies that will research California's path to a carbon-neutral economy by midcentury. One of those studies will be dedicated to orchestrating a progressive reduction in fossil fuel demand and supply. A reduction in supply, theoretically, to virtually zero.

Supply. That's us. That's 14,213 people directly employed in Kern County by the oil and gas industry, according to a recent study undertaken by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. at the behest of the Western States Petroleum Assoc. That's another 23,900 people employed in Kern County jobs supported by the oil and gas industry. That's roughly 400,000 people whose standard of living is in some way tied to the health of the Kern County oil and gas industry.

Don't Gov. Gavin Newsom, the state EPA and the other decision makers in Sacramento understand what the end of oil would impose on the southern San Joaquin Valley?

I attended the EPA hearing to find out.

Emphatically, the answer seems to be yes. The three-hour discussion might have focused on bureaucratic nuance: infrastructure development, incentives for renewables, trip reduction strategies, new technologies, that sort of thing. And to varying degrees it did.

But in fact the topic that dominated on both sides of the dais was the fragile nature of the Kern County's two-headed economy. Bakersfield and Kern County, utterly reliant on agriculture and oil, must see economic growth and diversification in ways not yet identified that maintain or even enhance the region's present level of prosperity.

"The workforce is very vulnerable right now," Ingrid Brostrom of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment told a panel of state officials representing some of the half-dozen agencies set to play a role in a transition taking direct aim at Kern County. The state must "look for ways to bolster Kern County's economic development."

Sarah White, a senior economic advisor to the governor, put it this way: Kern County must see a "just transition." The southern valley, she said, must develop a new set of high quality jobs, and comprehensive training for those still unidentified jobs.

That may prove more difficult than anyone at the hearing might imagine. Kern County oil jobs pay well — well over $100,000 per year in many cases, and often a high school diploma suffices. Oil jobs that require advanced degrees often surpass $200,000 per year. Those jobs aren't easily replaced in a county with one of the lowest educational attainment levels in the state.

The two studies are still in the scoping phase. Entities that have scarcely even been approached may eventually play roles in the studies, perhaps important ones. Tuesday's session was about questions and goals, not answers or success stories.

"Study 1" will identify strategies to significantly reduce emissions from vehicles and to achieve carbon neutrality in the transportation sector.

"Study 2," the one that most impacts Kern County, will identify strategies to decrease the demand and supply of fossil fuels, managing the industry's decline in a way that is economically responsible and sustainable.

Ashley Conrad-Saydah, the EPA's deputy secretary for climate policy, said the key at this point is inclusiveness. Kern County, she said, must be a partner in the transition.

To that end, the EPA will host public hearings in Kern County and Los Angeles County in October; dates and venues have not yet been set.

In the meantime the agency is accepting public comments. Email For information on the studies, visit

Contact The Californian’s Robert Price at 661-395-7399, or on Twitter: @stubblebuzz. His column appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; the views expressed are his own.

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(50) comments


Think the headline on this article could have been more accurate if it read, "Cal EPA", rather than just, "EPA".

Everyone reading this knows that anything related to California government is likely to be brain-dead leftist, to be taken only with many grains of salt. Labeling it "EPA" suggests the federal EPA, which at times may not be much better, but still has far more credibility than anything labeled as California-related.


Funny that cal epa has dramatically helped clean up our air .


"What are we going to do about a shortage of horses?"

"I have an idea.....". Henry Ford

Oil to Kern County is like coal to West Virginia. Progress that improves the whole has casualties. I'm for keeping our oil in the ground and buying everyone else's oil. Even if it cost a little more. Because tanks and fighter jets don't run on Duracells. Your car, however, can run on electricity. Nobody needs a car that goes 200 when the speed limit is 70.


Imagine >>> No oil? EPA? Look east at the empty desert (no towns, no ag, mil gone). SJVal wasteland.

Oil regenerates, hence 'seeps'.

"Does the Earth re-fuel itself?" (May 03, 2005 02:00 AM -- Ciaran Ryan)

"However, several cracks have started to appear in the fossil fuel (and hence, the peak oil) theory: some oil fields seem to be re-filling almost as fast as they are being drained. The Wall Street Journal reported the case of Eugene Island 330, an oil field in the Gulf of Mexico, which hit peak production of 15,000 bpd, slowing to 4,000 a day by 1989."

"Then suddenly -- some say almost inexplicably -- Eugene Island's fortunes reversed. The field... is now producing 13,000 bpd, and probable reserves have rocketed to more than 400 mm barrels from 60 mm. Stranger still, scientists studying the field say the crude coming out of the pipe is of a geological age quite different from the oil that gushed 10 years ago."


Robert Price:

Not sure if you read comments, but where is your paper's environmentalist writer? It is surprising that you write upon these issues and yet have a narrow understanding of petroleum. What your community needs is information about the products petroleum companies created and now insist we continue to use or else.

Just like an abusive relationship:

" you can't survive without me"

" you know you need me."

" you know I support you "

" you can talk to our friends and they will tell you how you will regret making me leave"

" look at everything I have done for you and the children."


I worked in the oil industry in Kern for 33 years, what I noticed over those years was a decline in oil production because of reserve depletion. I do believe at current production and recovery levels that oil will decline significantly by mid century. Like any natural resource oil will not last forever.


Can you imagine the country without Kern's oil? Don't we relish the thought of being under the Thumb of Saudi, Libya and others who shout "Death to America?"


The could be foretold the day Newsom was elected as CA governor. Oil is is a vital part of the world economy for thousands of other products besides gasoline and diesel. However, Newsom does not care what harm he does to this state. He is one a mission and that mission is to have clean everything no matter who it hurts. Just wait and see what shape California is in once he leaves office


You’re absolutely correct. Just look at how he left SF. A complete disaster. His mission is to be president and if it means destroying CA like he did SF with his idiotic policies, then so be it. He doesn’t care, just like you said.


Patricia Edna:

Kern destroyed itself. You allowed yourself to be abused. And ask for more. Astonishing really. Like addicts who swipe at the medical aide who is trying to help you . No different then a dysfunctional relationship , but in this case each of you men and women who cry, we can't live with them, are the weak ones.

I have no more pity for the cry babies in this town.


I doubt you even live here. Run along, now


I was in Qatar this spring where they were holding a conference on the reality of the oil economy ending in 40 years. These wealthy oil principalities have nothing else to fall back on. The move to renewables and electric vehicles has shaken them to the core. 1/3 of all cars sold in Finland are electric. China has pivoted away from coal and oil toward solar and electric. This is a world wide phenomenon. I was on a small island in the Pacific that is going all solar. Some villages had never had electricity before. This isn't hippy liberal's pure economics.

Chad Hathaway did anything you just say effect oil consumption?


The point is oil consumption and the dependence on oil has to be reduced . It is a limited natural resource and harms the planet and humans .


refreshing. thx.


Let me rewrite this part again and let it sink in.

" And as for the oil worker's income, they are paid less today than the past. Poor people. The hit you felt was strong. However, there was another entire world of oil people who felt none of it. Why? Because they profited from your demise.

Look, drawing crude and refining it in California doesn't lower your price as a consumer. Oil is sold on the International Market to the highest buyer.

When was the last time you drove up to the pump and asked for locally produced petro? "Hey, it should be cheaper." people say and the minute they say that I realize I am in with a different demographic of people now.

I had a feeling back in the 90's when I stood at the large window over looking Houston in the dining room of the Petroleum Club that something would have to give. "

Hefty price to pay Deepwater Horizon oil disaster & Hurricanes & death & who cares & Bakersfield who? & no one spoke of Bakersfield & nor cared about you for you guys were insignificant in the whole scheme of things.

OH and Hefty was created by Mobil chemist in the late 70's & 80's because in spite of the so called oil shortage, Mobil had to much stock piled and needed to find new products to use their product. It's kind of like horizonal integration in business, but it is the reason why we now have everything in plastic .

Let me say this again, the lame excuse you guys give of why oil is so important is a made up by the oil companies themselves. The industry loves folks like you.


Agreed oil is important for livelihood and daily life. At some point though we have to evolve . Who remembers the telegraph , carriages and vhs tapes? We should have goals to move towards cleaner energy. For our children’s children. Come on Chad do you care at all for the environment? What is your company doing to protect it?

Chad Hathaway

My company strives every day to reduce pollution and waste in our business, take care of the environment we work in and participate in our community, Notice I’m using my real name. What’s yours?


Ok that’s great . So what exactly does your company do for the environment? Why did you make a jab at the Sierra Club? I know some very kind and wonderful people who are active members? Why don’t you go to a meeting and see what they really do, maybe a collaboration. If you read my posts you will see that I’ve said oil is necessary but we can do better for the environment and times are o’changing.


California Democrats talk out of both sides of their mouth and spend from everyone’s wallet. Why all the new taxes spent on road construction and Prop 1 if you think you can eliminate cars in 10-20 years? Is your game plan to import our oil ( you can’t get away from its use in more products than you realize other than gasoline)? Do you really think other countries and states will follow suit or are they licking their chops at taking up the supply we produce? To think this change will affect global warming (a farce - was their an Ice Age, a thawing and Ice Age to come- the Earth turns in cycles and orbits around the Sun) or make any significant positive change is ludicrous. California’s oil production is the most regulated and safely produced in the world. It needs to be encouraged so we can enjoy the freedom and liberties our population should be afforded. This thinking is a strong case for a split state...


A science denier Referee B? I guess the earth is flat too.


Sorry Copper - better scrub the tarnish off your brain - but wait, the chemicals might be petroleum based..,

Chad Hathaway

B don’t you agree the climate changes? How is he a science denier? What science are you referring too? Did they teach you at the Sierra Club Meert to use phrases like “science” to drive home your point?

Maybe you could refer to an actual climate model or say something profound. If not put the iPad away.


You think insulting someone is making a valid point. How very trumpian of you. Waiting for a fact from your post that is reality based...


You are a total idiot and you prove it every time you post a message.

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Copper- your standard response to anyone that disagrees with you is to name call. Grow up and get some facts- your political bias colors every post you make here...


Boris lmao you started with a name calling and said not thought provoking thing. I guess that’s what they mean when they trumps base is uneducated .


Yawn a thon Boring25


That pesky economic principle of supply and demand is undefeated. Whether you drive supply to the black market (marijuana or vaping) or a dictatorship thousands of miles away (petroleum), central planning of markets always fail.


Even plastics come from oil. There are many things produced from oil that people don't even know about.


Chad: What is the land value of the North-west? Where are some of the highest paying jobs in United States? Where do the Wealthy purchase some of their private property? The north west. Because they valued the natural surroundings. Because they created jobs that provide you with the software you write on and the products you order on line...the list goes on.

And as for the oil worker's income, they are paid less today than the past. Poor people. The hit you felt was strong. However, there was another entire world of oil people who felt none of it. Why? Because they profited from your demise.

Look, drawing crude and refining it in California doesn't lower your price as a consumer. Oil is sold on the International Market to the highest buyer.

When was the last time you drove up to the pump and asked for locally produced petro? "Hey, it should be cheaper." people say and the minute they say that I realize I am in with a different demographic of people now.

I had a feeling back in the 90's when I stood at the large window over looking Houston in the dining room of the Petroleum Club that something would have to give.


LOL... it won’t be giving inHouston, it will be growing!

Chad Hathaway

The value of the land in the NW wasn't hurt by loggers. They responsibly kept our forest well thinned and healthy. Ask the Sierra Club that your probably a member of. They would agree as they now support selective thinning as our forests are overgrown and our air is dangerously polluted annually by out of control forest fires. Why didn't you shout from the mountain tops on the summer nights when our kids can't go outside due to massive forest fires?

Oil and gas jobs are some of the highest paid jobs in the country. Salaries in our sector rise and fall with the economy. Same as any other sector. You have no point nor are you exposed to the real data like I am.

As an oil producer I am happy to provide energy to my community. I'm happy to see prices at the pump come down due to an abundant supply. I think you meant to say...THANK YOU FRACKING.

Yes when I go to the pump I say..Why are my gas taxes so high? Why aren't electric vehicle drivers paying their fair share? They drive on the same roads the tax is paying to fix. Why is it cheaper to buy gas almost everywhere in the country? I'm shocked that consumers don't revolt to your party's un-educated, illogical energy policies that continue to hurt everyone. Our economy must be too strong to notice the pain. When its not get ready. Remember our former Governor who was recalled due to high energy prices.

When you were standing at that window did you ask yourself what would have to give? Did you ask yourself if it was pollution you wanted to see reduced or did you just decide to bandwagon bad energy policy without logic?

I often stand at the window of the Bakersfield Petroleum Club thinking about the day Californian's will wake up and revolt against people like you who share your values. Values based on a religion devoid of fact and fueled by fear.


Mr. Hathaway:

I see you are a Bakersfield boy. Studied at Bakersfield College. You like it here. You like your life and quality of air and the beauty of the Valley. You have skin in the game. Invested in own company. Have to make sure your directional drills keep utilized .

However, because working in the field is all you know and somewhere along the line you were released by another oil company you had to find a way to make money in what you know.

I follow that logic.

Now follow mine. Property is valued very low through out Kern, because of pollution. Hospitals multiply yearly their beds, because of ill health. Great for those companies. Agriculture sprays bi-products of oil and other chems and that helps pollute and increase sickness. It cheaper for them to do that.

So why would I or anyone else respect Kern oil?

Just because you grew up with plastic and other products does not mean I did. I know we don't need oil. Wow, crazy idea. And yet you know it also. However, it wouldn't be good for your business , would it?


Interesting I thought PG and E was being held responsible for the forest fires?


It's a shared responsibility. Untended, unhealthy, overgrown forest areas (due in large part to political mismanagement) provided the fuel. Hot, dry, windy weather weather provided the ideal conditions. PG&E provided the spark.

Chad Hathaway

One more thing.....

Nice work Price! Thanks for publishing this! I hope our community is paying attention.

Chad Hathaway

California consumes millions of barrels of crude oil products daily. That can't be supplanted even if we devastated our economy trying to do so. Wake up ideologues and grasp reality.. lets produce it here. Cleaner and better than anyone else. Take a break from trying to bankrupt your neighbor and go to bat for the thousands of people and great companies that have paid for your social services and the way of life you have enjoyed for the past 100 years instead of throwing them under the bus.

Ask yourself has consuming fossil fuels made your life better or worse...If you say worse how so?


Besides the fact that plastics grossly polluted our oceans and earth and every fish and humans have micro plastic in its system? We have no clue how this modern overuse of plastics for convenience is going to affect us all. Now excuse why I drink out of my plastic cup brush my teeth with my plastic toothbrush etc. I would love to move away from plastic products , still waiting for a cheaper alternative.

Masked 2020

looks like the results of the study was just what they oil folks wanted to hear ..........WSPA is routinely one of the largest lobbying forces in the state of California. In 2014, WSPA spent $8.9 million lobbying - nearly double what it spent in the previous year. WSPA spent $4.67 million in 2013.[4] The increase happened during a push by WSPA and other oil and gas industry to roll back transportation fuels coming under California's cap-and-trade program under the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.[5]


In November 2014, a leaked PowerPoint from Western States Petroleum Association revealed it "activates" and funds front groups that are designed to weaken California's climate change law Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.[5] The front groups, which included groups like the California Drivers Alliance and Fed Up at the Pump, appeared to be grassroots groups representing consumer interests, while WSPA spent millions on PR campaigns to further the oil industry's policy agenda.[6]


Thanks for sharing that 2014.

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Yeah, Yuckies2014 sharing yet ANOTHER Wikipedia post. Solid sourcing there... LOL


Hallelujah ! That picture looks so encouraging. There maybe hope after all.

The logger's of the north-west, in the 80"s, complained that their livelihood would disappear. Who needed those trees alive? Who needed those trees to breathe in and exhale ? Who needed those trees to hold the soil from eroding? These men needed a paycheck !

Now where is the wealth ? Here? No.

Get over yourselves and this fake importance of oil jobs. Jobs which left this county in poverty unlike I have even seen in California. Jobs that Management hopes you keep doing so they can live off your backs and they can live elsewhere.

Chad Hathaway

The loggers of the north west did lose their livelihood. All because of what? An owl who they later determined was a victim of his own species versus the loggers they demonized.

Ask the thousands of oilfield workers who make a good living in the oil and gas industry if they don't have wealth? Look at your tax role...7 of the top ten taxpayers in Kern County are oil companies.

Get your facts straight...


I don't know if they realize, but oil is in everything, in cars, roads, everything that is made, companies use oil to run their machines. Tell me what doesn't involve oil in one way or another.

Chad Hathaway

Your spot on... Very few things don't rely on oil..

Masked 2020

times a changing.......finally......


How so? Is your mule or horse your new form of transportation? Are you burning wood to cook your food and heat your house? Of course your not! Walk the talk or stop the eco-nazis agenda you hypocritically preach!


There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be eco friendly . It’s weird that some of you here want to mock people who care about the earth. What are you so scared of?


Ok let’s go back to elementary school. Yes the earth”s climate changes . But this rapid warming man caused climate change is creating a crisis around the world. Even conservative farmers can’t deny the impact. The whole world is in agreement except for a few people who want to continue to live in the dark ages and lie to themselves. Do you even know how silly you sound? Instead of bashing the Sierra Club over and over why don’t you reach a hand out and work on a collaboration? I don’t know maybe allowing some bee or butterfly habitat to be planted on your land? At some point you will be forced to diversify.

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