Harold Hamm is more than a little disappointed in President Obama.
The founder and CEO of Continental Resources—the 14th-largest U.S. oil company—had a few minutes of exclusive face time with the president at the White House recently, where he told Obama that America had enough oil within its borders to “replace OPEC.”
Obama was unmoved.
“Oil and gas will be important for the next few years,” Hamm recalls the president telling him. “But we need to go on to green and alternative energy. [Energy] Secretary [Steven] Chu has assured me that within five years, we can have a battery developed that will make a car with the equivalent of 130 miles per gallon.”
“Even if you believed that, why would you want to stop oil and gas development?” Hamm asks in a Wall Street Journal interview. “It was pretty disappointing...President Obama is riding the wrong horse on energy.” Hamm adds that the U.S. could be “completely energy independent by the end of the decade. We can be the Saudi Arabia of oil and natural gas in the 21st century.”
But the gatekeepers are keeping those gates shut.
It’s an all-too-common entrepreneurial roadblock. Whether it’s small coal mine operators like Ronnie Bryant, who told The Blaze about shrugging like Atlas in the face of regulatory red tape, or big-time magnates like Hamm, the problem is essentially the same: A huge ideological wall separates America’s biggest problems from America’s best solutions. Hamm elaborates:
Washington keeps “sticking a regulatory boot at our necks and then turns around and asks: ‘Why aren't you creating more jobs,’” he says. He roils at the Interior Department delays of months and sometimes years to get permits for drilling. “These delays kill projects,” he says...
The White House proposal to raise $40 billion of taxes on oil and gas—by excluding those industries from credits that go to all domestic manufacturers—is also a major hindrance to exploration and drilling. “That just stops the drilling,” Mr. Hamm believes. “I’ve seen these things come about before, like [Jimmy] Carter’s windfall profits tax.” He says America's rig count on active wells went from 4,500 to less than 55 in a matter of months. “That was a dumb idea. Thank God, Reagan got rid of that.”
If that wasn’t enough, Continental and six other North Dakota oil companies were recently charged by the Obama Justice Department with the deaths of 28 migratory birds that allegedly landed in oil waste pits last spring; the maximum penalty for each charge under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is six months in prison and a $15,000 fine, the AP said.
Not easy to swallow when, The Blaze reported, Obama’s beloved wind companies routinely kill more than 400,000 birds annually—and without a single fine.
“This shouldn’t happen in America,” Hamm told the WSJ, adding that it shows the current administration is “is out to get us.”
By all rights, the feds should be falling at Hamm’s feet. He discovered the Bakken oil fields of Montana and North Dakota that have pushed the U.S. into third place among world oil producers and could yield, Hamm says, 24 billion barrels:
If he’s right, that’ll double America’s proven oil reserves. “Bakken is almost twice as big as the oil reserve in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska,” he continues. According to Department of Energy data, North Dakota is on pace to surpass California in oil production in the next few years. Mr. Hamm explains over lunch in Washington, D.C., that the more his company drills, the more oil it finds. Continental Resources has seen its “proved reserves” of oil and natural gas (mostly in North Dakota) skyrocket to 421 million barrels this summer from 118 million barrels in 2006.
“We expect our reserves and production to triple over the next five years.” And for those who think this oil find is only making Mr. Hamm rich, he notes that today in America “there are 10 million royalty owners across the country” who receive payments for the oil drilled on their land. “The wealth is being widely shared.”
Speaking of North Dakota, Hamm and many other forward-looking businesspeople have been singing the state’s economic praises for quite some time. Hamm told the WSJ that the Obama administration should study North Dakota, which boasts America’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.5%, if it wants to get the U.S. out of its fiscal quagmire:
“We can’t find any unemployed people up there. The state has 18,000 unfilled jobs,” Mr. Hamm insists. “And these are jobs that pay $60,000 to $80,000 a year.” The economy is expanding so fast that North Dakota has a housing shortage. Thanks to the oil boom—Continental pays more than $50 million in state taxes a year—the state has a budget surplus and is considering ending income and property taxes.
Check out this video about the abundance of work and opportunity in North Dakota:
Hamm told the WSJ that if D.C. allowed more drilling permits for oil and natural gas on federal lands and federal waters, “I truly believe the federal government could over time raise $18 trillion in royalties”—which is more than the U.S. national debt.
Not a bad gig if you can legislate it.