BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — When one drives throughout Kern County it's hard not to see an oil rig. Now we’re learning just how much of an economic impact it has on the county.
First in California and seventh in the country. That's where Kern County ranks in oil production.
“Well, I just think what an economic driver this industry is for our county and not just our county by the state,” says Richard Chapman, president and CEO of the Kern Economic Development Corporation.
Kern County has the largest economy in the San Joaquin Valley. According to the 2021 Economic Impact of the Oil and Gas Industry in Kern County from Kern Economic Development Corporation, the county ranks fourth in STEM jobs, 3rd in economic diversity, and second in agriculture in the nation. But oil and gas make the biggest economic impact here.
More than 13,000 Kern County residents are employed in the industry directly and indirectly. Kern County provides 70 percent of California's oil and 60 percent of its renewable energy with the largest wind farm in the nation and the second largest solar farm.
“Petroleum is used not only in cars but in solar panels, wind turbines, EV batteries have petroleum, paint and so forth, medical devices so I think again the key is to explain how far this type of product goes beyond what people assume,” continued Chapman.
Seventy-nine percent of California's active wells are within Kern County lines.
While this makes it the energy capital of California, some say it comes at a price. When it comes to the effects of the oil and gas industry some county residents, like Riddhi Patel with The Center on Race, Poverty & The Environment, can be divided.
- Idle oil wells in Northeast Bakersfield found to be leaking 'explosive levels of methane gas'
- California state agencies investigate oil well leaks in Bakersfield
- $200 million proposed to assist with capping state orphaned oil and gas wells
- California not counting methane leaks from idle wells
“Relying so heavily on one industry sometimes can also hurt the county, and it can not be as helpful as they like to portray it. Oil and gas drilling does, 100 percent, does further cause pollution, especially in local communities."
“Local production creates local jobs, so would you rather have the jobs local or three thousand miles away,” argues Chapman.