The Republican front runner in the presidential sweepstakes corralled Harold Hamm, a 66-year-old billionaire who graces the not-too-shabby 30th spot on Forbes annual list of America’s 1 percenters. He made his money in one of America’s most successful oil plays ever — his Oklahoma-based Continental Resources has been the driving force behind the Bakken oil field in North Dakota, which the New Yorker dubbed ‘Kuwait on the Prairie.’
Hamm will have Romney’s ear as the chairman of his Energy Policy Advisory Group, the campaign announced in early March. You can bet he’s not going to be whispering a lot of sweet nothings about solar panels, wind turbines and the like.
“If those businesses are commercial, such as wind power can be, then those are good, but I don’t think the government should be telling the public what fuels to use,.” Hamm, told Reuters in a recent Interview.
Or as he told the Wall Street Journal: “President Obama is riding the wrong horse on energy.”
Hamm is an oilman, the likes of which haven’t been seen in these parts for some time — a throwback to when America was self sufficient in oil and outsized characters dominated the oil patch. If Romney wins the nomination, a pivot back to traditional style energy would be a surety, especially as Hamm thinks North Dakota has the potential to be a Saudi Arabia, not just a Kuwait.
This would have been the case no matter which Republican won the contest. To the man, and to the woman, Republicans who have battled for the right to face Barack Obama in November have shown a disdain for the administration’s renewable energy push and to the science that says the world is dangerously warming because of the burning fossil fuels.
A Republican Administration, with strong majorities in Congress, would likely move to expand drilling off the U.S. coasts and would likely disabuse agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating hydraulic fracturing, the drilling technology that is behind the energy boom in North Dakota and Pennsylvania.
But it could also be argued that Obama might also be pivoting in much the same direction should he prevail in November. He signaled as much in his State of the Union Address in January
“And nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy,” Obama said. “Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources.”
Obama still talked up renewable energy, but he also named natural gas as a cleaner energy source than oil or coal, something that did not sit well with the environmental lobby
Where a second Obama Administration will go on energy is not clear but there will likely be no stimulus money and probably little appetite for more tax breaks for green energy. So the emphasis could shift back to hydrocarbons.
And the first casualty in all this could be Energy Secretary Steven Chu. He is under fire over the $500 million Solyndra bankruptcy and the Obama Administration will stand four square behind him through the election, as a resignation now would signal a major defeat.
But after the election, Obama may want a more traditional energy secretary to help take care of the bustling oil and gas sector that is giving America a real shot at energy security, something every president since Richard Nixon has tried and failed to accomplish.
The Nobel prize winning Chu is widely seen as a brilliant scientist and even Republicans showed deference to the secretary before the Solyndra bankruptcy. But in a new administration, Obama will likely want someone with a little more familiarity with drilling bits and rigs than beakers and Bunsen burners.
Although Republicans may grouse the seeds of success in the oil and gas boom were planted in the previous Bush Administration, Obama will be making much of the success in the industry leading up to November elections. And after, whoever wins the White House, the oilmen look to be in ascendency.