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October 25, 2010

This makes me feel like I don’t get out much, but did you realize that there are place where oil just bubbles up out of the ground?!

This is outside of Taft, CA, which is in the southwest corner of the San Joaquin Valley, about 30 miles from Bakersfield. Also just outside of Taft? The site of the largest oil spill in U.S. history.  The Lakeview Gusher blew in 1910 and flowed for 18 months.

There are oil deposits piled up higher than my head at the site of the gusher.

So my head’s not in this picture. You’ll just have to believe me on this one.

I think of California mainly as a produce-producing state. A redwood and sequoia-producing state. A Hollywood and Apple and Google-producing state. But it’s also a pretty serious oil-producing state. Standard Oil of California (now known as Chevron) was based in Taft before they moved to San Ramon. Other companies have operations there, too. Thousands of people moved here to work in the oil industry. The oilfields come up to the edge of town. Most people in Taft work in the oilfields, or someone in there family does (or did).
And every five years Taft celebrates its heritage with Oildorado. This year’s Oildorado festival was a big deal, since it’s Taft’s 100th anniversary. I went down there with Jeremy Miller and Todd D’Addario. It was really fun. We’re working on some stories, which I’ll link to when they’re up. I’m still processing a lot of audio and ideas. Meanwhile, in case you’ve never stood in the middle of an oilfield, here’s what it sounds like.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. mollysamuel permalink
    October 26, 2010 11:05 am

    P.S. Check out Jeremy’s article in the last issue of High Country News about hiking with a sort-of hero in Utah. You have to be a subscriber to read the whole article, but you can see a slideshow here:

  2. October 29, 2010 11:39 am

    Oil is one of Kern County’s major economic resources. One of the first clues that oil was present is the fact that it sometimes finds its own way to the surface. The place where the oil, asphalt or tar naturally comes to the surface is called an oil or tar seep or “brea”. The seeps are best viewed in the summer as the hot temperatures make the tar less viscous and they form little “streams” and “pools”. During the winter the seeps do not flow as easily and will be a bit less impressive.

  3. January 25, 2011 10:29 pm

    We were there!

    • mollysamuel permalink
      January 26, 2011 9:54 am

      My experience of the site of the Lakeview Gusher was strikingly similar to yours. What brought you out there?

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