20190922-bc-refinerybill

The state's plan to diminish the California oil industry has serious consequences for the local economy and facilities like Kern Oil & Refining Co., 7724 E. Panama Lane, pictured here.

Reader: I just wanted to express my thanks for your timely coverage of Sacramento's plans to eliminate the oil industry here ("Is the end of Kern oil production really upon us? Sure sounds like it," Aug. 11, et al.). California's ever-increasing importation of oil from foreign sources continues. I am cynical enough to expect these studies will result in a regulatory rather than market-based initiative, with no reduction in demand and an increase in imports. This reminds me of the 1990s when Sacramento mandated 10 percent of all vehicles on the road by the year 2000 would be electric-powered. A nice thought. Anyway, thanks again for bringing attention to this critical topic.

— Russ Ledbetter

Reader: John Cox’s Nov. 24 article ("Economists rip California's plan to cut in-state oil production") was nothing short of outstanding — well done! I certainly hope that copies were sent to those shallow-minded bozos in Sacramento.

— Kenneth F. Hersh

Price: No one is covering the California oil industry at the moment better than Business Editor John Cox. The evidence: Neither the local oil industry, nor state regulators, nor environmentalists leading the charge to dismantle the industry in the name of climate change mitigation is often very happy with him.

This is the story of the year in Kern County, and perhaps of this still-young century. Progressive California wants to make a statement about climate change, take concrete steps to address it and serve as a model to the world, as it has done on so many other fronts.

I get it, but I also get the fact that a dismantling of the California oil industry, headquartered here in Kern County, will devastate the local economy unless something, or somethings, replaces it within the same range of time as the dismantling. Gov. Gavin Newsom has made noises like he understands that, but the state's recent actions, as reported by Cox, call that understanding into question.

Taking regulatory steps to curtail supply is fine, as the economists quoted by Cox say, as long as the demand side of the quotient — starting with an escalation of construction of an electric-vehicle infrastructure — has been addressed.

"If California consumers continue to demand the same amount of gasoline, it will just come from elsewhere," Stanford University economist Charles D. Kolstad, whose work has focused on environmental economics, regulation, climate change and energy markets, told Cox.

Looming in the background here is the fact that Kern County already has some of the worst poverty in the nation. Further impoverishing it only increases the state's burden to assist. Kern is already a net recipient of state tax dollars.

•••

Reader: TBC printed an Associated Press story Nov. 23 under the headline "Trump blasts probe as 'total nonsense.'" It claimed unequivocally that witnesses testified under oath during the impeachment hearing that the president had withheld aid to the Ukraine until they investigated his political rival Joe Biden for corrupt acts. It was reported as the absolute truth and that the witnesses were totally convinced that President Trump was guilty of an impeachable act. However, the witnesses were actually just expressing their personal opinions and had no actual proof that such an act occurred. 
 
Just another total fairy tale from the lying liberal media with no regard for the truth. Of course TBC printed it in its entirety as it always does of any Trump-hating news. You previously claimed that you fact-check all news that you print. Did you fact-check this story, Robert? 
 
What little journalistic integrity you had left has now spiraled down the drain. You continue to feature every Trump hater that The Washington Post can muster up. Trump may not be a choir boy but neither is he the antichrist as depicted by the despicable media. I cannot recall anything positive you ever printed about him.
 
Put your spin hat on, Robert. You are the ultimate spinmeister since it is your only way to justify the absolute garbage you subject your readers to on a regular basis.
 
— Jack Balfanz
 
Price: But Jack, several of the witnesses summoned to address the House impeachment inquiry did testify "unequivocally" to certain observations and informed impressions. You claim that The Associated Press "reported as the absolute truth ... that President Trump was guilty of an impeachable act." Here is what the article actually said: "... witnesses testified under oath that the president withheld aid from Ukraine ..." You don't agree with their claims? You don't believe they have "actual proof"? Good for you. But that is in fact what they testified to, and that's what the story said. Surely you can see the distinction.
 
I didn't notice you in the room, Jack, when our paginator digitally placed that article onto the page, but you must not have been paying attention because you are mistaken that the paper printed it "in its entirety as it always does." Wire stories are almost always trimmed to fit our modest national news hole, as was this one — rather extensively, in fact.
 
We fact-check readers' submissions as best we can, as I have stated (and that's essentially what I'm doing here now for you, Jack), but I have never claimed we fact-check wire stories. We can't and don't, and no publication of our size (perhaps of any size) does either. We try to check the accuracy of wire stories if they refer to local issues in which we happen to have expertise, but it's unrealistic to think we can follow wire-service writers down the same investigatory path they've taken in the course of their reporting.
 
An ironic aside: The article you cite gave the president the opportunity to defend and attack in ways we don't often see in non-Fox settings. It was practically a "Jack special," quoting Trump calling Democrats "fools" who are peddling "nonsense" and perpetrating a "hoax." You should be sending me flowers, Jack. I'm partial to tulips, FYI.

•••

Reader: I wonder if journalistic responsibility requires reporting of assertions made by a public official known to make false statements an average of 20 times per day. I’ve worked with people who lie much less often than that, and I have learned not to trust the content of anything they say. More important than the content of their speech is the relational component of their speech, e.g., the target of their attacks or the beneficiary of their support. 

Rather than reporting content, would it not be more useful to our democracy for reporters to describe what the official is doing with the speech rather than the content of the speech? For example, “Official again contradicts all available evidence,” is more useful information than reporting, “Official says there was no quid pro quo.”

When officials lie as often as some do, it sure looks as if they are relying on the “objectivity” of the press to spread their lies, so the press becomes a co-conspirator in undermining democracy.

— Bruce Hartsell

Price: That's one of the shortcomings of living in a democracy and of a free press that strives for balance. (Yes, folks, most of us are trying.) Because of that quest for balance, for example, many Americans doubt what NASA has been telling us for years: According to multiple studies, at least 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are almost certainly due to human activities. Look it up. Google the words NASA and climate. But because journalists are trained to give dissenting views a chance to be heard, those 3 percent of scientists who disagree get 50 percent or more of the airtime.

Media can't just shut out prominent politicians who have bully pulpits, no matter how dubious their records of truth-telling. I will point out, however, that we're seeing more of this phrase in media reports: "he claimed without evidence." I welcome its use, inadequate though it may be.

We have also seen cable news outlets ban individuals because of questions about their credibility. Kellyanne Conway and Alan Dershowitz are the two who come to mind. I don't recall action of that sort by news media prior to this administration, but maybe someone can set me straight. 

•••

Reader: First of all, let me say that I've enjoyed reading your articles in The Californian over the years. Second of all, I'm an engineer and have worked overseas internationally in different European (and elsewhere) countries that have high-speed rails and a much different culture, perspective and economies than we do here in America and especially California.

After reading subject article ("That high-speed fiction looks a lot more like fact now," Nov. 17) and musing over its title, I humorously transposed your usage of the word "fiction" and thought the word "friction" would have also communicated as well, considering all of the opinionated differences coming from the advocates and those who oppose the high-speed rail factions. Then I thought further and thought, "Hmmm, that word in itself has a double meaning when you reflect on the tremendous "friction" needed between the rail and the train for it to operate safely.

I should add that European commuters really like their high-speed rails and comfortably ride knowing they're saving time, money, the environment — and besides, they all can truly relax and mutually interface while sitting right next to each other talking about the countryside, the weather, the family, what they're going to do when they arrive. And they can get a bite to eat and go to the bathroom without having to stop! I recognize that having your own car gives a lot of good things, too, but there's a good and correct balance to your life and society overall if you have and use both options.

— Randy Regan

Price: My experience riding trains up and down California, across the Rockies, in the northeastern U.S. and through central Europe has been unfailingly good and occasionally fantastic. The construction of California high-speed rail has been absurdly expensive, and I've seen no compelling evidence it won't continue to be, but I'm not buying the gloomy forecasts of poor ridership or unfulfilling experiences.

•••

Reader: I’m so excited to see the old weather page back. It has been sorely missed. And just in time for the rainy season! I was very bummed about not having the rainfall info. Please keep it!

— Sherry Russell

Price: We will, we will!

The Californian’s Robert Price answers your questions and takes your complaints about our news coverage in this weekly feedback forum. Questions may be edited for space and clarity. To offer your input by phone, call 661-395-7649 and leave your comments in a voicemail message or email us at soundoff@bakersfield.com. Include your name and phone number; they won’t be published.

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