America’s Fracking King on Environmentalists and Donald Trump’s Appeal

Harold Hamm explains why his industry just can’t get any respect.

The following is a condensed and edited interview with Harold Hamm, CEO, Continental Resources.

Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources

Hamm

Photographer: Jonno Rattman for Bloomberg Businessweek

 
Domestic crude supplies have almost doubled. Do you feel Americans appreciate what your industry has done?
It’s hard to miss the benefits of what’s happened as a result of the oil and gas renaissance. A lot of people didn’t expect it—particularly those environmentalists that would stop all fossil fuel production.

The industry has been forced to reckon with efficiencies in the face of lower prices. How much more efficient are Continental and its competitors today?
When horizontal drilling began in the 1980s, one well would take the place of 18. So one surface location would take the place of 18 locations on the surface—a tremendously more efficient situation.

What has given us this energy renaissance in America is the horizontal drilling techniques that the small independent operators like my company developed.

Do you think that your industry is going to come out of this price cycle stronger in any way?
As far as processes, yes. As far as financial, no. I mean, it’s hurt our industry greatly. But … it made OPEC irrelevant. They’re no longer going to be able to control America and the consumer prices here. You know, that’s probably the biggest patriotic gain that we’ll ever see in our lifetime. For 50 years, they’ve controlled consumer prices at the pump in this country—50 years.

Dealing with a diminished OPEC, you think, is a good thing for the U.S.?
Absolutely. I mean, what are you paying for gasoline out there today? Two dollars?

I paid two bucks last week.
There you go, man. They had it at $4 or $5. So it’s a huge thing. We can’t even measure that. Has it helped our economy? Absolutely. You know, the last eight years were pretty miserable, but they would have been real bad without what we’ve done—without this energy renaissance. It’s been tremendous.

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As it relates to energy policy, what do you want to see from the next president?
Well, somebody’s going to have to change the rhetoric on the fossil fuel industry and not have a target on everybody’s back in this industry and trying to put us out of business.

Do you see Hillary Clinton as Obama 2.0? What does she mean for the oil and gas industry?
Well, just listen to what she said, that she’s going to stop pressure treatment of wells. That pretty much would put an end to everything [for shale development]. And for what? I mean, it’s been proven, you know, there hasn’t been any [environmental] damage from that.

For the Republican Party, what happened during the past four years that fed the rise of Mr. Trump?
It’s not just in the Republican Party; I think it’s basically across the country. Call it the Washington disconnect. While working there to lift the crude-oil export ban, I got a real feeling that there was a huge disconnect between the everyday American worker, the average American, and Washington. There wasn’t any attention being paid to it. And I think that’s played out with this entire process. The people that weren’t insiders necessarily have fared very well. And yes, Donald Trump is not a politician.

 

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