KERN COUNTY is located at the southern tip of the San Joaquin Valley.


‘Kern County, with Taft on its western edge, produces 144m barrels of oil a year, the second highest output of any county in America,’ (The Economist Special Report on The geopolitics of Energy, March 17th 2018).

‘Kern County is oil land, and the spoils of the commodity boom have brought an optimism entirely absent from communities farther north,’ says The Economist (full citation below). ‘Pumpjacks nod tirelessly, as they have since the late 19th century, in the large oilfields outside Bakersfield, the county seat. Business leaders enthuse about the possibilities of fracking the Monterey shale, a vast oil formation, and of the solar and wind farms that dot nearby mountains and plains. Bakersfield is one of America’s fastest-growing cities, and few locals hesitate to contrast its fortunes with the rest of the valley. Yet, despite its energy riches, a quarter of the population lives in poverty. At 11.5%, unemployment is close to the regional average. Far more people toil in low-paying farming jobs than in the energy sector. A common complaint, as elsewhere in the valley, is the failure of local schools and colleges to attend to the needs of local employers. Kern County has been a major agricultural centre for decades, but it took the local university until 2011 to begin offering relevant courses.’ (Abridged from ‘Down on the farms’, The Economist 03 August 2013 p.38-39.)