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Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger likes to boast about his home state’s move to clean energy sources such as wind and solar.
But on Sunday’s Meet the Press on NBC, the GOP politician and climate activist may have gone too far.
Schwarzenegger was on the show promoting World War Zero, a coalition of scientists, politicians and celebrities hoping to bring greater urgency to climate change, ahead of the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
He said California’s embrace of renewables is evident even in Bakersfield, a city of 380,000 better known for oil derricks and country music than solar arrays and wind turbines.
"I just want to tell you that, for instance, in California, in Bakersfield, where there’s a lot of oil drilling going on, there’s more solar jobs now in Bakersfield and around that area than there are oil jobs," Schwarzenegger claimed. "People are leaving the oil fields and going to work in solar and clean energy and stuff like that."
More solar jobs than oil jobs in the Bakersfield area?
We drilled down on a fact check.
Our reporting, along with a fact check by Bakersfield NBC TV affiliate KGET, calls Schwarzenegger’s specific claim into question. But it also shows renewable energy jobs are growing in the region.
Asked about the claim solar jobs have overtaken oil positions, Kern County spokesperson Megan Person told the station "we know that not to be true."
She said the county is home to approximately 2,500 solar jobs, most of which are temporary and tied to construction and installation.
By comparison, it has about 14,000 jobs directly connected to the oil and gas industry, most of which Person said are permanent oil jobs. She said the figures come from private service JobsEQ.
It’s the same amount listed in a 2017 Oil and Gas in California report by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.
Bakersfield is the largest city in Kern County, located south of Fresno and north of Los Angeles. The region, like much of the state, has seen a jump in renewables, but not to a level matching traditional energy jobs.
"Kern County is seeing a rise in solar installations, and I don’t mean just residential. I mean giant commercial projects," Person said, citing a new solar field that will generate 850 solar construction jobs.
"It could be confusion related to that," she continued. "I don’t know where [Schwarzenegger’s] numbers came from. We can’t substantiate them."
'It was a mistake'
The former governor’s spokesperson, Daniel Ketchell, told PolitiFact California that Schwarzenegger "meant to say new jobs. What he said was not meant to mislead. It was a mistake."
Ketchell clarified that he intended to say the San Joaquin Valley has gained more new clean energy jobs than oil jobs.
There’s some evidence for that, but it’s a far different claim than what the governor said on TV. The Valley includes a much bigger area, running from Stockton to Bakersfield, and clean energy goes beyond just solar.
"Yes, it’s on the rise," Carol Zabin, director of the Green Economy Program at the UC Berkeley Labor Center, said of solar and other clean energy sources. "The big solar farms are located in various parts of the state. But there’s a concentration in the San Joaquin Valley."
Zabin said the Center does not have figures comparing solar and oil jobs in the Bakersfield area. But in a 2017 study, it reported that California’s clean energy initiatives "created 88,000 total jobs, including 31,000 direct jobs" in the San Joaquin Valley from 2002 to 2015.
She added that automation has led to a decrease in some oil and gas jobs in the Valley, though she noted demand for fossil fuels continues to be strong.
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently claimed there are more solar jobs than oil jobs in the Bakersfield area.
A spokesperson for Kern County said the area’s solar jobs amount to just 2,500 while the oil and gas industry includes 14,000 positions.
Schwarzenegger’s spokesman told us he meant to say the San Joaquin Valley is seeing more new clean energy jobs than oil jobs. There’s some evidence for that, but it’s far different from what he said on TV.
We rate Schwarzenegger’s claim False.
FALSE – The statement is not accurate.
Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Meet the Press interview, Dec. 1, 2019
Daniel Ketchell, spokesperson for Schwarzenegger, email exchange and phone interview, Dec. 2, 2019
Megan Person, Kern County spokesperson, phone interview Dec. 4, 2019
Kara Greene, Western States Petroleum Association spokesperson, email exchange, Dec. 5, 2019
Aaron Hegde, economics professor, California State University at Bakersfield, email exchange Dec. 5, 2019
Carol Zabin, director of the Green Economy Program, UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, phone interview Dec. 5, 2019
KGET TV station, Arnold Schwarzenegger: There are more solar jobs than oil now in Bakersfield, Dec. 3, 2019
UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, The Economic Impacts of California’s Major Climate Programs on the San Joaquin Valley, Analysis through 2015 and Projections through 2030, January 2017
UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, The Link Between Good Jobs and a Low Carbon Future, July 2016
Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, Oil and Gas Industry in California: 2019 Report, Aug. 27, 2019
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