The People vs. Big Oil
Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/09/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21691
Book review of Steve Early's Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City.
Refinery Town tells the story of how a small, formerly industrial city -- with a population just over 100,000 -- attempts to fight its way out of the hell that segregation, joblessness, pollution and violence have imposed.
Richmond, California's one remaining major industry, Chevron's sprawling refinery, can produce 240,000 barrels of crude daily. Six-hundred-ton oil tankers unload at its dock. In 2013 alone the plant generated $20 billion in annual revenue and about two billion in profit. Its impact on the local community has been as large as the profits it takes. Safety has long been an issue for both the unionized work force and city residents; Chevron has had an outsized influence on local politics as well.
Early outlines the city's industrial history. The refinery, which began as a Standard Oil refinery in 1905, staved off unionization until after World War II. Producing fully 10% of Chevron's profits, the facility outlasted the enormous Kaiser shipyards and nearly five dozen defense-related industries that turned Richmond into a boomtown during that war.