Feb 14, 2023

A recent Politico article on Governor Newsom’s proposed refinery profit cap and tax scheme included a curious claim:

“[Newsom’s] proposal is welcome even among people in oil-producing Kern County …”

The assertion was supported by a single quote from an environmental justice activist who has apparently ignored all the ways Kern County has fought to maintain its oil production activities over the past several years.

Politico and its key source must have missed this Bakersfield Californian headline from December 2019: “Kern County supervisors plan to counter governor’s actions against California’s oil industry

And perhaps they didn’t notice last year when the Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously called for the governor to suspend his restrictions on in-state production in order to ease price spikes created by a global supply crunch. The Board’s resolution bemoaned how, thanks to Newsom’s policies, California only produces a small fraction of the more than 1.6 million barrels of oil it consumes per day.

But it is quite strange for a major publication and an allegedly well-placed local source to fully ignore how maintaining oil production is still a top issue in Kern County today. In fact, the very same day Politico elevated the idea that Kern County supported Newsom’s ongoing crusade against oil companies, the local Board of Supervisors chair Jeff Flores gave his State of the County address, stating:

“Right now, we’re actively battling the Newsom administration for the rights and resources to drill under the strictest, most environmentally conscious regulations in the world. This year, we will continue to advocate for the state to stop relying on imported oil from countries which have some of the worst human rights violations in the world.”

Indeed, Kern County has long argued that it’s better for California to produce the oil it needs every day than depend on unreliable foreign oil imports from halfway around the world. Yet the shutdown policies have kept coming out of Sacramento.

As Teresa Hitchcock, director of the Kern Workforce Development Board, put it in a May 2021 Forbes feature:

“Legislating oil and gas out of existence in California won’t alleviate the need for the product. It just means that California will rely on foreign sources and will be outsourcing the jobs and tax revenue to other countries, with weaker environmental guidelines.”

Hitchcock noted for Forbes that Kern County has ranked among the top 20% of all metropolitan areas in the United States for upward mobility for low-income children, thanks in large part to opportunities in oil and gas that Newsom seems determined to eliminate.

So, heads up, Politico: the idea that Kern County would welcome efforts to restrict its own local oil production is just as ridiculous as policies that force Californians to send money overseas for oil that could be produced in-state.