Kern County the answer to California energy woes?

Published August 1, 2001

Supporters of a balanced, market-based energy policy point to central California’s Kern County as an example for the rest of the state to follow.

Rural Kern County has welcomed oil drilling and the construction of power plants while the rest of the state, and indeed much of the nation, has taken a “not in my backyard” approach to energy production. Local environmentalists note that energy production has had little or no adverse impact on local wildlife. In fact, tax revenues from energy production have financed sparkling new schools and beautiful new parks and preserves.

“There should be power plants in everybody’s backyard,” proclaimed Paul Gipe, chairman of the Kern County Sierra Club. “If people are concerned about having too many power plants, they should think twice when they flip on the light switch.”

Assemblyman Roy Ashburn notes that for all the benefits of harmonizing energy and environmental concerns, Kern County still must pay the dues for other counties’ anti-production energy policies. Noting that Kern County pays the same high energy prices and suffers the same rolling blackouts as other members of the state’s energy grid, Ashburn asserts that “the people of California are either going to be part of the solution or part of the problem. And in Kern County, we have a long history of being part of the solution, especially when it comes to energy issues.”

In other parts of the state, Ashburn sees “a lot of arrogance–people who enjoy the benefits of a very high quality of life, enjoy the benefits of electric power for jobs and for their personal life, but with an exclusivity that it’s someone else’s problem to create that for them. We don’t have that attitude in Kern County.”

While the rest of the state pays a particularly heavy price for its past energy production decisions, the Bush administration says help is on the way. In addition to a spate of belatedly constructed power plants that will begin to produce power this fall, the Bush energy plan would eliminate obstacles to conventional technology energy production and will provide incentives to encourage energy production using alternative sources.

“We’re committed to a new approach for a new century. Energy and the environment do not have to be competing priorities,” stated Bush.