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California's Shift from Oil Will Impact Local Communities and Economies

California is a leader in environmental initiatives yet remains a significant player in fossil fuel production, particularly in its petroleum refineries. Despite a steep decline in in-state oil production, California continues to rank third in the U.S. for crude oil refining capacity. 

California operates 11 refineries, down from 30 just a few decades ago. These are mainly located in Los Angeles County, Contra Costa County, and Kern County. In-state gasoline consumption has fallen since 2017 and is expected to decrease dramatically. But Californians still consume just as much fossil fuel overall as they ever have thanks to high demand from jet fuel and the 6,000 other products that are petroleum based.  About 25.8% of the oil used in California's refineries in 2022 was sourced from within the state, with the rest being imported. Despite this decline in local oil production, California remains a significant consumer and petroleum refiner, and refined products are exported to other states and countries.

The transition from fossil fuels poses significant challenges, particularly for the thousands of workers and communities dependent on the refinery sector for employment and tax revenue. Refinery jobs are well-compensated, mostly unionized positions that contribute significantly to local economies. The phase-down of refineries raises concerns about job losses, economic impact on communities, and environmental justice, primarily since disadvantaged communities often reside near these facilities.

The state faces the challenge of achieving its aspirational climate goals, yet what is to become of the workers and communities affected by refinery closures?

For more information, contact Sean Wallentine.


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