Kern County has the biggest oil fields in the state. When oil prices are high there seems to be a move to get remaining oil out of the ground a little faster. Is it a coincidence then, that rising oil prices over the past five years coincides with worsening smog levels in that part of Kern County?
In the chart we see the average price of a barrel of oil matched up against annual violations of the 8-hour federal ozone standard. Maricopa sits up against the hills at the Southwestern end of the San Joaquin Valley. Just upwind are the biggest oil fields in the state with names like Midway-Sunset, Elk Hills, McKittrick and Belridge. It is taking more and more energy (meaning more air pollution) to get less and less of the remaining oil out of the ground but high prices seem to make it worth the effort.