Podcast

The hidden history of California oil

How residential drilling sparked public health and environmental justice problems in California.

Across California, oil wells pepper residential neighborhoods — often sited directly next to homes, schools and businesses. 

These residential wells have been linked to a host of health problems, ranging from asthma to cancer and beyond. And these problems disproportionately affect California’s communities of color. 

This week, producer Alexandria Herr undertakes a journey to find out whether California is really the green state everybody thinks it is. 

We’ll explore hidden oil wells, the history of redlining and the oil boom that kicked off during World War II to understand why residential drilling in California looks the way it does today. 

Part of the discussion touches on pictures of California oil rigs that are disguised or decorated. Here they are:

A tall, narrow tower looms over a Los Angeles neighborhood.
Built by Occidental Petroleum in 1966, the Cardiff Tower in Los Angeles is often described as the first architecturally designed oil derrick. (The Center For Land Use Interpretation)
A large tan building
This Packard oil well site in Los Angeles is camouflaged to look like a nondescript building. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
A tall tower decorated with brown and red flowers
A 165-foot-tall oil well tower dubbed the "Tower of Hope" stands at Beverly Hills High School in California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Guests: David Gonzalez is a President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. Sarah Elkind is the president of the American Society for Environmental History. 

The Carbon Copy is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media.

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