Oil a Bust

Sunday, October 20, 2013
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Increased oil production could actually be an economic drain. Local oil company Santa Maria Energy (SME) has promised 100 high-paying local jobs and $3 million in county tax revenue if its proposal to drill 100 new wells in Santa Maria using cyclic steam extraction is approved. But if oil drilling is so good at generating jobs and tax revenues, why is it that Kern County, which produces more oil than anywhere in California — 81 percent — is one of the poorest counties in the state?

Houses in Kern County are worth $100,000 less on average than houses in Santa Maria, and tax revenues are lower per person than in Santa Barbara County. Kern has a 24 percent higher unemployment rate than the California average, and it ranks 49th lowest out of 58 counties in the state in per capita income. Also, at least partly due to pollution caused by the oil drilling, 1 in 5 Kern County youngsters has asthma. Additionally, Kern County has three times the rate of asthma hospitalizations as Santa Barbara County.

Part of the reason oil counties can end up so poor is because when the companies are done degrading the land, property values decline. This reduces tax revenues significantly. Another reason is because the jobs required for such advanced operations are highly specialized, outsourced to engineers and computer experts who have worked on familiar operations such as in Texas and Oklahoma. The fracking industry made the same promises to Pennsylvanians that SME is making to us. In several Pennsylvania counties where the fracking boom occurred, employment rates did not rise — they dropped. Where they rose, they did so negligibly, and often at the cost of permanently contaminated water.

The SME project may very well be a harbinger of more poverty for our county. I hope the county supervisors reject it entirely.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

So S.B.County wants to allow Santa Maria Energy to add 67,000 tons of greenhouse gasses annually to our atmosphere by using our most precious resource , water ( yeah right , it's all reclaimed water .Wanna buy a bridge?), to extract a low grade oil for export. We ( the general public) suffer the consequences while a few are enriched. Bad idea.

geeber (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2013 at 4:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Please, please stop mis-informing people. It's outrageous and irresponsible.

1. 90% of the economy of Kern County (by revenue) is not Oil-based. It's agriculture based, which draws huge amounts of poor, uneducated undocumented workers and their children into the personal income figures you cite - along with American citizens that are also working for very low wages.

2. The vast majority of pollution in Kern (by far) is from agriculture pollution (trucks, tractors, etc. that do not have as stringent exhaust controls) along with dust, pesticides, etc. Santa Maria's agriculture areas have similar asthma rates because it too is an agriculture based economy.

3. In Pennsylvania the unemployment drops in some counties that frack are due to people moving to OTHER counties that frack more and need more workers.

Lastly, the primary benefits of domestic petroleum drilling is broadly shared by our entire economy which gains from lower fuel prices, steady availability and less dependency on foreign sources (and subsequent entanglements). Gasoline prices are significantly lower throughout the country and have held steady in California (due to restrictions on new refining capacity and pipeline restrictions, which cap supply). Natural gas prices are at 50 year lows when inflation adjusted. We are down to 35% crude import vs. 60% of crude imported 5 years ago.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. economy are at 2007 levels because of a big shift from coal to natural gas for electric power generation and on the way to 2003 levels by end of 2016. Wow!

Obviously we need to stop drilling immediately, force everyone at lib-dem directed gunpoint to use wind and solar and raise utility bills by 400% and tax the rich at 2x what we do today to pay for it. Makes perfect sense.

willy88 (anonymous profile)
October 22, 2013 at 1:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Willy , while I agree with some of your argument , hopefully you are not talking about the SME project specifically when you say - "the primary benefits of domestic petroleum drilling is broadly shared by our entire economy which gains from lower fuel prices, steady availability and less dependency on foreign sources ."
Surely you know that the grade of oil to be harvested from this ill conceived project is not best suited for domestic use , right? So you are good with all the bad sides of this deal as long as a few fat cat oil men get rich , right?

geeber (anonymous profile)
October 22, 2013 at 6:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Most of SB economy is agriculture and tourism based too. Energy is less than 0.2% of employment in the county. And oil production jeopardizes the rest of our economy with high risk of spills and water contamination.

Pesticides are an issue in Kern, but but there is plenty of documentation that oil production causes smog and asthma. See the EPA list of health impacts from oil production:

These health problems, including asthma, are well documented in other oil production locations like Texas.

The point being people next to petroleum drilling don't benefit. They get stuck with the local pollution.

Plus, the "tight" oil in CA is among the most energy and carbon-intensive in the world so the degree we increase production here, we are contributing to global climate change which will ultimately tank our entire global economy.

It's a lose-lose proposition.

jdiggs (anonymous profile)
October 24, 2013 at 6:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

geeber, oil company distributors just really don't care where it comes out of the ground at all. Gas prices have always been higher here regardless of local production. It's probably one of those supply/demand things. They just don't understand that we'll just drive to LA to pay less per gallon.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
November 3, 2013 at 10:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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