Billionaire Harold Hamm On How Biden Is Holding American Energy Hostage

Fresh from publishing his memoirs, Game Changer, the oilman hosted a high-powered Biden-bashing summit.

Harold Hamm was eating it up. Sitting at a table near the stage with his family, the 77-year-old oil billionaire listened intently as one after another of his hand-picked lineup preached to the choir at the first ever American Energy Security Summit held at the shiny new Hamm Institute for American Energy.

“Joe Biden hates American energy,” declared Nikki Haley to an audience of 350 middle-aged oil and gas executives. “When the president talks, he demonizes companies like yours. It’s anti-American, and it needs to stop.”

Haley, whose campaign and Stand For America PAC have received at least $28,000 from Hamm, promised that as president she would cut federal gasoline and diesel taxes. “Every ounce of energy we get from home we don’t have to buy from somebody else, especially our enemies.” And to help spread America’s energy bonanza around the world, she would fast track permitting for pipelines and liquefied natural gas export terminals. “We’re going to open our country’s floodgates. There’s no such thing as too much American energy.”

Hamm agrees with Haley on Biden. “Our global standing is in decline because of his moves on energy,” Hamm tells Forbes. “Biden, from his very first executive orders, has done nothing but make energy prices in this country go up while increasing national security risk,” by promoting oil development in Iran and Venezuela rather than Wyoming.

Having finished taking Continental Resources private, and after publishing his book, Game Changer, last month, Hamm figured that the perfect time to hold the first ever energy summit at his new institute (funded by his $50 million gift to Oklahoma State University) would be the Monday following the U.N. Climate Week in New York— as if some of us frequent flyers needed an antidote to what he sees as a naive belief among climate activists that we can just quit fossil fuels.

Among the highlights, David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs, rejected any notion that Wall Street should stop financing oil companies. “We have to support traditional energy. If we don’t have reliable energy at an affordable price society won’t function,” said Solomon.

The message from Big Oil companies was that a low-carbon transition will not happen without them. “We’re not the enemy,” said Mike Wirth, CEO of Chevron. “If you exclude this industry, I guarantee that you will not meet the goals you want.” It’s crazy, Wirth added, “to pretend it’s possible to build a new energy system without leveraging the old one.”

Transition is the wrong word; it’s and, and, and,” offered Baker Hughes CEO Lorenzo Simonelli, insisting that fossil fuels are not going to be replaced, but supplemented.

Former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lambasted Biden administration efforts to promote electric vehicles powered by batteries and solar panels — categories dominated by China, which for all of its green hype, last year burned a record 5 billion tons of coal, after adding more coal power in the past five years than is in the entire United States. “No chance China is going to cut,” said Pompeo. “[President Xi] is going to build coal fired [power plants] as long as economically viable. He will not commit climate change hari-kari.

As Hamm sees it, Biden is holding American energy hostage. He resented White House threats last year to impose a windfall profits tax after oil spiked with the start of the Ukraine war. And he thinks the administration was foolish to tap 180 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve when there wasn’t any real oil shortage. “The SPR is meant to be a reserve for times of war, not of politics,” says Hamm.

Worse, it’s a trick you can only do once. The beneficiary of Biden’s oil policy is the Saudis, says oil analyst Amrita Sen of Energy Aspects, who told the summit that the Saudis are “revenue optimizers and maximizers” and are making $70 million per day more under premium pricing than before they cut output by 2 million barrels per day — purposefully tightening the global oil market because America’s SPR is no longer a threat.

***

Hamm is not a charismatic public speaker. His gravelly drawl can be hard even for midwesterners to parse. Which is why he wrote down what he needed to say in his new book Game Changer: Our 50-Year Mission To Secure America’s Energy Independence. He insists he’s not calling himself a “game changer.’’ Instead, he says, his book’s title refers to the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that has come to be known as fracking. That’s a term Hamm hates as much as being called a fracker, which to his ear sounds pejorative and disrespectful to the technology’s significance in helping make the United States the world’s biggest oil producer (12.8 million barrels per day).

He organized the book in his inner sanctum — a windowless room on the 13th floor of Continental Resources’ Oklahoma City headquarters lined with boxes of records, clippings, photographs and awards. He has filled hundreds of yellow legal pads over six decades and appears to still have them all.

Around the walls is posted a long timeline, stretching back decades. Perhaps his most precious artifact is a term paper he wrote in high school, titled “Oil.” Encouraged by teacher James E. Hunter to explore his curiosity, a teenaged Hamm wrote 20 pages in a neat cursive script. It’s impressive work, especially for a kid who was the youngest of 13 and grew up barefoot picking cotton on an Oklahoma farm. The project birthed his lifelong obsession for finding oil.

He did it the hard way. A college drop out and largely self taught geologist, Hamm started off with a trucking company 56 years ago, hauling away oily flowback water from drilling sites, skimming crude off the top to make a few bucks. He put one million miles on his truck before ever drilling his first well. His daughter Shelly Lambertz wrote an Afterward for the book, recalling “the countless wristwatches Dad would go through because oil seeped inside them.” He’s since become the world’s richest truck driver, with a family fortune of some $25 billion.

Hamm really got going around 1995 when he first began experimenting with steerable drilling in the Cedar Hills oil field of Montana. It was his first time drilling so-called “tight” rock, low in porosity and permeability. Frustrated that conventional vertical drilling methods didn’t work, he tried then-new technology enabling drillers to steer their bits — first down, then turn 90-degrees sideways to bore for a couple miles through oil-filled rock. It worked like a charm, with wells producing 900 barrels per day. “That opened up all the tight oil reserves in America.” In 2007, in order to raise cash to drill in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, Hamm took Continental public, selling 15%.

Hamm was distracted but undeterred by anti-fracking activists like Josh Fox, who made the 2010 movie “GasLand.” He considers it part of a smear campaign against U.S. natural gas led by Russia, which lamented losing LNG market share to the frackers. For evidence, Hamm points to a 200-page report prepared in 2018 for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee detailing NATO intelligence that Russian intelligence agents provided support for anti-fracking environmental groups including funding NGOs with $95 million.

Hamm considers perhaps his greatest accomplishment the incessant lobbying he undertook ahead of the 2015 legislation that lifted a federal ban on the export of domestic crude oil, allowing independent producers like Continental to cut out middlemen and sell their crude directly to international buyers. He predicted to Forbes a decade ago that the U.S. oil industry would double output of crude oil and other raw liquids like propane. And so it has, to nearly 20 million barrels per day.

Meanwhile, natural gas production keeps growing, to more than 110 billion cubic feet per day. Burning natural gas releases just half the carbon dioxide emissions for the same energy as coal. As shale gas has displaced coal in power generation, the U.S. has reduced carbon emissions by some 15% over the past 20 years — the greatest volumetric and percentage carbon reduction by any developed nation. It’s proof positive for Hamm that frackers aren’t part of the climate problem, but the solution.

Even better, America is exporting record amounts of gas — last year sending 12 billion cubic feet per day as LNG to Europe, where it displaced Russian supplies. As Robert Pender, founder of Venture Global LNG, told the summit crowd, “we can do the same miracle worldwide.”

Hamm’s biggest play in recent years (after perhaps writing a $975 million check to settle his 2015 divorce from Sue Ann) was last year’s move to take Continental Resources private. He says that even though his family already controlled 80% of the shares, raising $4.3 billion to buy in the rest was a no brainer, given that the equity markets were valuing Continental at just four times annual earnings. He says his top priority now is paying off debt, which should take a couple years.

Already the nation’s biggest private oil operation, Continental is closing in on 500,000 barrels per day. While they operate some 23 rigs, among the most nationwide, Continental CEO Doug Lawler cautions that there’s no drill-baby-drill ethos here. They’re about generating value, not volumes. The biggest boon of going private: not dealing with investors and analysts has freed up at least 20% of executives’ time.

***

Easily the most intriguing discussion at the summit was when Hamm went up on stage to chat with Vicki Hollub, CEO of Occidental Petroleum. They have some interests in common. Oxy, in the Permian basin, is developing technology to suck carbon dioxide out of the air using so-called direct air capture machines. Oxy will add that CO2 onto a pipeline network that it operates in west Texas, and will also hook up a new electric generating plant it is building in a venture with NETPower — the novel plant combusts natural gas, but captures all of the resultant CO2 rather than letting it waft into the air. Oxy will take all this captured CO2, pressurize it, and inject it deep into old oil fields where the gas will goose out additional quantities of oil while getting trapped permanently in the rock.

This is a technique that Oxy has been perfecting for decades in west Texas, and which Hollub believes will work in their fields in Colorado, Wyoming and Oman. “We will apply carbon dioxide to shale,” Hollub says. “There is still three times more shale recovery to go.”

Hollub is not as knee-jerk dismissive of ESG concerns as some of the summit speakers — because she thinks sequestering carbon dioxide underground is a viable engineered solution to the problem that will give Oxy “social license to operate.”

Speaking on a separate panel, Chris Kendall, CEO of Denbury Resources (soon to be acquired by ExxonMobil) explained that for decades they’ve been pioneering carbon dioxide injection along the Gulf Coast; their objective is to “pre-offset the emissions” from oil by sequestering more CO2 than the oil would eventually produce when used as gasoline or diesel. They call it “blue oil.”

Hamm agrees, which is why Continental has invested $250 million into a project that will take CO2 produced at 34 corn ethanol plants across the midwest and move it by pipeline to North Dakota where they’ll inject it into porous rock layers that are naturally free from oil and gas deposits. Gov. Doug Burgum, speaking at the summit, said he expects “North Dakota’s geologic jackpot” to attract $40 billion in carbon sequestration investments.

“At these ethanol plants all the CO2 generated is just going out into the air,” says Hamm. “Why not capture that and sequester it and not pollute the air. It’s the right thing to do.”

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We have to back COP28. It’s the most ambitious climate plan in history

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

If COP28 brokers a global climate deal on these proposals, it would help fast-track a just transition away from fossil fuels. If it fails, the chances of such a transition will be dangerously diminished, Prof İbrahim Özdemir writes.

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Climate change dominated this month’s United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, which set the agenda for the major UN COP28 climate talks later this year hosted by the UAE. 

Those talks will be humanity’s last chance to get a global agreement to avoid dangerous climate change.

Yet confidence in COP28 has been tarnished by reports of greenwashing and fossil fuel lobbying. Many feel apathetic about the world’s seventh-largest oil producer hosting the UN climate negotiations.

Yet, research published by Uskudar University and the UN-accredited Caribbean-ASEAN Council shows that this thinking is downright dangerous — because it could fatally derail the most ambitious climate action agenda in history.

Dr Al Jaber is no ‘oil man’

Seven colleagues from across the Global South and I teamed up to conduct a detailed comparative analysis of the goals and actions of the five most recent COP presidencies.

After comparing COP28’s proposals and actual actions to the agenda and behaviour of previous COP presidencies, we discovered that the widespread belief that this COP28 represents the worst climate conference of all time is completely unfounded.

For instance, the characterisation of Dr Sultan Al Jaber as an “oil man” by the Western press is misleading. 

Al Jaber in fact founded and ran the UAE state-owned renewable energy company in 2006. About a decade later, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed vowed at a UAE government summit that the country would celebrate the shipment of “the last barrel of oil” by the mid-21st century.

Then in January 2016, the UAE’s Cabinet Ministry held a “Post-Oil” strategy retreat to end dependence on fossil fuel production. 

The next month, the UAE formally launched and adopted a national strategy for life after oil, and only in this context was Al Jaber moved from his role at Masdar to become CEO of the state-owned oil company Adnoc.

Stuck between fossil fuel and a hard place

Since then, Adnoc has made huge strides, with 100% of its power coming from clean electricity produced from nuclear and solar. 

Although criticised for planning to invest $150 billion (€141bn) in oil and gas expansion, our analysis reveals that the total value of the renewable energy projects planned by the UAE with various partners this decade, both domestically and globally, is far higher and amounts to over $300bn (€282bn).

This is not only larger than the UAE’s planned fossil fuel investments, it is considerably bigger than investments mobilised by previous COP presidencies into clean energy. 

Our conclusion is that the COP28 presidency is attempting to strike a difficult balance confronting developing nations: protecting their prosperity while safeguarding the planet.

As Dr Sultan Al Jaber stated in his speech to the UN Climate Ambition Summit at the General Assembly meeting in New York, the “phasedown” of fossil fuels is both “inevitable” and “essential”. 

But we cannot simply eliminate fossil fuels when the new energy system has not yet been built, which is why he urged a “rapid phase up of zero carbon alternatives” and efforts to “rapidly and comprehensively decarbonise the energies we use today.”

Indeed, emerging markets and population growth will drive growth in electricity demand of up to 185% by 2050. 

Yet as Al Jaber also warned, within the next seven years we have to simultaneously grow our energy supply while slashing 22 gigatonnes of carbon emissions to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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We cannot afford to do this by suddenly eliminating fossil fuel production — the Russian gas crisis showed that even a modest deficit in global energy will spark an intolerable global economic catastrophe. 

That’s why we need to simultaneously increase and decarbonise the global energy supply.

There is a promising road we could take

Our investigation of the key components of the COP28 agenda suggests it offers a promising pathway to achieve this.

Tripling renewable energy capacity in the next seven years will reduce its costs to around a quarter of the current cost of fossil fuels, a prospect that would drive them to rapidly outcompete fossil fuels well within the next 20 years.

While scaling up renewables, a commitment to both “phasedown” fossil fuels, and “phaseout” fossil fuel production where carbon emissions are not captured, will incentivise governments to avoid fossil fuel companies that ignore this commitment. 

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As we cannot simply end fossil fuel production in seven years, ramping up carbon capture as quickly as possible is the only way to reduce emissions in this time frame. 

Although carbon capture is not yet commercially viable, our report points out how partnering with renewable energy could make it commercial in the late 2020s.

Governments need to use both sticks and carrots to get fossil fuel industries to move as rapidly as possible.

Restructuring climate financing to make it low-cost and reduce debt burdens could finally unlock the trillions of dollars the developing world desperately needs to fast-track its energy transitions while simultaneously industrialising.

It’s all about fast-tracking a just transition

The climate action plan proposed by the UAE’s presidency of this year’s COP climate summit offers the most ambitious agenda ever put forward by a COP presidency in 28 years.

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If COP28 brokers a global climate deal on these proposals, it would help fast-track a just transition away from fossil fuels. If it fails, the chances of such a transition will be dangerously diminished.

That’s why we believe it’s time for governments and civil society to seize this groundbreaking opportunity for the world to unite on robust climate action.

Professor İbrahim Özdemir is a UN advisor and an ecologist teaching at Üsküdar University. He has served as Director-General at the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Ministry of Education and was a leading member in drafting the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change endorsed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Paul Polman: The world needs a Marshall Plan to fight climate change–and politicians are failing to show ambition. Business can’t afford to wait



The COP27 climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh were a missed opportunity. The pledge to keep global temperature rises under 1.5 degrees is just about alive, affirmed by G20 leaders in Bali–but there’s no clear plan to deliver it.

The Sharm deal doesn’t include a commitment to phase out all fossil fuels or any guarantee that emissions will peak by 2025. Current national carbon reduction targets get us closer to a devastating three-degree rise. A powerful group of blockers–mainly oil-rich governments and companies–were out in force.

There were bright spots. By creating a new fund for “loss and damage,” rich countries are finally taking some financial responsibility for producing most of the emissions already causing mayhem in poorer countries. This is a significant breakthrough for a multilateral system dangerously low on trust. Let’s hope the money follows. 

More governments committed to methane cuts. Enhancing nature and reforming food systems were formally recognized as part of the climate fight. And tighter measures were proposed to avoid greenwashing. 

However, the urgency of the crisis is clearly still lost on many of our political leaders. Collectively, they are failing to deliver the ambition and action on which our planet and future depend. This situation is not going to magically improve. Next year’s COP28 will be held in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates–and will be just as easily hijacked.

There will be no great superpower pact to save us: despite diplomatic baby steps between Washington and Beijing, their cooperation will be limited as long as Russian tanks are in Ukraine and America fears for Taiwan’s security. Even with the U.S., Australia, and Brazil back at the table, ongoing troubles in the global economy and high inflation threaten to push global warming down domestic agendas (even though tackling climate change is the best way to stabilize energy and food prices). 

Business literally can’t afford to sit back and wait for politics to get its act together. Climate isn’t just an environmental issue: it’s the economy, stupid. Extreme floods, heat waves, wildfires, and hurricanes cost billions. They send impoverished nations further into debt, while crippling supply chains, disrupting global trade, and destroying the labor force. Whether you are a C-Suite executive, an investor, or the WTO, you have a major interest in getting the world onto a more stable path. There are tremendous gains waiting for those who move quickly. The shift to a low-carbon economy can add trillions of dollars to global growth each year, and create millions of jobs. 

Even as politics stalls, business can still push ahead. Beyond companies getting their own houses in order, there are three immediate things business leaders can do. 

The first is advocating for much-needed reform of our global financial architecture. The idea that we will need a Marshall Plan-style intervention to finance the shift to a greener economy is starting to gain traction. CEOs can help bring it into the mainstream.

The fringes of Sharm saw much discussion of Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s Bridgetown Agenda, which calls for climate to be fully integrated into the mandates of the post-WW2 Bretton Woods institutions, which would dramatically increase the resilience and capacity of the Global South.

Professor Lord Stern has calculated that, if developed countries significantly increase grants and low-interest loans through expanded aid, it could attract $1 trillion of private investment to help finance the transition. Such proposals warrant urgent investigation–and business can demand it. 

Second, senior executives can do more to lead vital partnerships for change. Across industry, government, and civil society, we will have to collaborate on climate in ways we never envisaged. It’s starting to happen–and it’s time to ramp up the speed and scale of collaboration. 

In Bali, we helped launch the Global Blended Finance Alliance, including the biggest ever single climate transaction, which mobilizes $20bn from governments and private finance to support Indonesia’s effort to close coal mines and peak its emissions early.

Led by the Rockefeller Foundation (where I sit on the board) another coalition of investors, entrepreneurs, and public officials will bring clean energy to 1 billion people, including many in Africa. 

And business and farmers aim to dramatically scale regenerative agriculture and improve livelihoods within seven years through the Regen10 initiative.

Third, is bringing more young people to the table, fast. The young activists I met in Sharm were sharp, determined, and sick of being patronized. They are powerful–as employees and consumers, as our sons and daughters, as the next generation of leaders, and as voters. Many are frustrated with the political process and look to the private sector to empower them in a new, intergenerational alliance that has an impact on the real economy. Here too, business can act: put them on boards, on panels, in leadership positions, and in every room where decisions affecting their futures will be taken.

There’s no need to feel hopeless–but we must recognize that our politics is failing to deliver vital climate action. We must find other ways to close the ambition gap, get the money moving, get business driving urgent coalitions, and make sure young people are firmly in the driving seat. Then, it will be up to politics to catch up.

Paul Polman is a business leader and campaigner, and the author of Net Positive: how courageous companies thrive by giving more than they take.

The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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