Awareness campaign launches to counter anti-oil state policies

Dec. 1—The latest effort to consolidate support for California's embattled, Kern-centric oil and gas industry kicks off today with a campaign that pro-business organizer BizFed Central Valley modeled after the popular My Job Depends on Ag initiative started in 2016.

My Job Depends On Oil, set for launch at dual morning events in Bakersfield and Fresno, comes amid anger in Sacramento that the industry is enjoying strong profits at a time of spiking gasoline prices. Other recent clashes have revolved around regulatory measures such as a law banning oil drilling near neighborhoods and schools.

Coming after years of industry recognition that its opponents in environmental activism have gained an advantage in the battle for public opinion, the initiative is billed as more of a public awareness campaign than Kern Citizens for Energy, a separate coalition that has brought together workers, politicians and municipalities to voice support for the industry during regulatory matters.

BizFed said in a news release oil and gas provides for almost 366,000 California jobs, $226 billion in wages, $21.6 billion in tax revenues and more than $152 billion in economic output in 2017.

The group, a federation of businesses and associations with more than 70 members representing 30,000 businesses from Kern to Madera counties, blamed state policymakers' anti-oil crusade for rolling blackouts in summertime, surging gas prices and increased reliance on foreign oil.

"It's impossible to overstate the importance of the oil and gas industry in the Central Valley and California," BizFed Central Valley CEO Clint Olivier said in the release.

"California could be a leader in environmentally safe and humanitarian oil and gas production, but it has unfortunately chosen another route," he added. "Worse yet, the state has done so without any realistic plan for a just transition, leaving hundreds of thousands of hard-working Californians feeling massive job insecurity."

Oil and gas production has been in Sacramento's crosshairs for years as climate activists push to curtail petroleum use, environmental justice activists combat oilfield pollution and Gov. Gavin Newsom tries to speed the transition to clean energy.

Spokesman Kevin Slagle at the Western States Petroleum Association noted the trade group was not behind the campaign but that it appreciates efforts to speak up for industry personnel, "especially in a time where our governor is focused on banning their careers away."

Kern Citizens for Energy Director Tracy Leach, who is also a director at BizFed Central Valley, said by email the new campaign will highlight the benefits Californians reap daily from oil production amid increasing foreign petroleum imports.

She called the initiative a reminder of how many jobs, families and businesses depend on oil production, "and we should do everything in our power to protect and preserve these vital natural resources for 40 million Californians who use them."

Bakersfield-based oil producer Aera Energy LLC, noting it is the second-largest individual contributor of tax revenue in Kern County, said in a statement BizFed's new campaign gives voice to oil and gas workers, their families and small businesses "who believe they have an important continuing role, even as we work together to combat the impact of climate change and energy use changes over time."

"With decades of energy expertise and ingenuity," Aera stated, "oil and gas workers will play a critical role in California's energy future as we seek innovative solutions to the climate challenges facing our state."