In President Obama’s State of the Union Address, he announced his support for hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for natural gas. Obama said this form of energy development could create 600,000 jobs.
Noting fracking could unearth and capture nearly a one hundred year of supply of natural gas for the country, Obama said his administration would take every possible action to safely make this supply of natural gas become a reality.
But according to Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources (CLR), who is known as "America's Richest Oil Man," an important part of the fracking puzzle was missing from that part of the speech- fracking for oil.
“Fracking technology for natural gas and oil is the same,” explained Hamm. “You use water and sand to create fractures—a small pocket in either the shale or tight rock to create the ability for fluid to flow through it. The advances we have been seeing over the years is in horizontal drilling and drilling in stages.”
Independent oil producers make up 94 percent of the oil wells in the United States. Mike Cantrell President of DEPA (Domestic Energy Producers Alliance) and an oil man himself for forty years said the President’s “political correctness” touting natural gas is just a wish fantasy that the United States will stop using oil.
“Of course we need to develop alternative energy. But it will never be the sole energy solution for the United States. These energies will be supplements," Cantrell said. “Natural gas is the only politically correct fossil fuel for the Obama Administration,” added Hamm. “He just can’t bring himself to say oil.
The President couldn’t pass cap and tax so he is now using the EPA and the US Fish and Wildlife Agency to do the regulatory over-reach he couldn’t do. Obama is on a regulatory jihad against the American Oil industry.”
Oil insiders express frustration about the president crediting the government for doing the research on the U.S. energy reserves.
“It’s the capital created in the private sector that has driven this exploration and production,” said one energy executive, who asked not to be named. “The private sector is the reason for America getting off of foreign oil. Not the Obama Administration. Our industry is the reason for this paradigm shift.”
“In spite of their regulatory over-reach we are drilling,” explained Cantrell' “Obama is trying to do everything he can to stop the tax provisions that allow us to write off our drilling capital costs (which is $ four billion a year for over ten years) so we can re-capitalize our money to drill more wells. He is trying to take that away. If he was successful that would significantly and adversely impact our oil production."
As more and more oil wells go on line, America’s dependence on foreign oil has steadily gone down since 2005. According to the Energy Information Agency's (EIA) Fourth Quarter 2011 report, US domestic drilling has broken through to the 58% mark.
"Those numbers are big," Hamm said reacting to the news. "I remember when I first was on Squawk Box back in the Oct. 2010- we were barely below 50% of oil production in American (47.8%) and I predicted in less than 5 years America would be above 50%. We have exceeded my timeline. We are now we are producing 58% of oil in the United States!"
What's driving this increase? The oil being fracked out of the 25000-square-mile chunk of land called The Bakken which spans between North Dakota and Montana.
"We have had oil fields coming on pretty big and pretty quick," explained Hamm. "In November of 2011 we produced 510,000 barrels a day out of North Dakota. That number will ramp up to million barrels a day by 2015. We need to quit discounting U.S. oil production. It's anything but insignificant. North America is getting off foreign oil and becoming energy independent is becoming a reality because of the Bakken."
The impact and controversy behind Fracking has been a debate between environmentalists and the oil industry since the first well was put in the ground in Kansas in 1947. Environmentalists say there have been "Fraccidents" where water has been contaminated in neighboring towns of fracking sites as well as air pollution. But executives like Hamm say this budding Black Gold Rush in America is safe and the methods they are using to protect the environment are ever advancing. Hamm stressed in a time where millions of Americans are out of work, the fracking industry is creating a big opportunity in terms of jobs.
Lots of them. Hamm says there are currently 18,000 job openings in the Bakken with an average salary of $105,000 a year.
Continental Resources is not the only company in the Bakken.
Halliburton , Schlumberger , Baker Hughes, BJ Services unit, Marathon OilExxon Mobil and FTS International Inc., formerly known as Frac Tech Services LLC are all there.
"Getting oil out of the Bakken is good for this country. It not only creates jobs and wealth creation but it also strengthens our energy security," said Hamm, "The strong production gains we are seeing now are just the beginning."
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A Senior Talent Producer at CNBC, and author of "Thriving in the New Economy:Lessons from Today's Top Business Minds."