Hamm talks politics, market meddling and other issues at opening session of DUG Midcontinent Wednesday
Presidential politics, market meddling by OPEC+ countries and global investors, and the hoped for future trading of a new grade of crude oil along the nation’s Gulf Coast were among issues attendees at this year’s DUG Midcontinent conference heard about Wednesday from Harold Hamm, founder and executive chairman of Continental Resources.
Hamm addressed those topics and others during a fireside chat that opened a first-ever virtual edition of the conference, which traditionally has been held in Oklahoma City every year.
“We need an executive branch that will be pro-energy,” Hamm said about the election, noting that Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden earlier in the campaign pledged to bar the use of hydraulic fracturing to complete oil and gas wells if he were elected president.
Biden’s selection of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, to run on his ticket as his vice presidential nominee wasn’t a surprise to Hamm, he said.
The longtime energy executive discussed how today’s environmentalist movement reminds him of people in past generations who complained about farmers while there was plenty to eat.
“We have very cheap gasoline, and it will get to where electricity will almost be a giveaway, before long,” Hamm said. “The energy industry has done a great job, making the U.S. to where it isn’t subservient to any other country to meet its energy needs.”
While Hamm said Biden has backed off his anti-fracking position somewhat as his campaign has progressed, he observed that Democrats don’t appear to him to be focused on America’s future.
Instead, he said they only seem to be interested in pointing fingers at the current administration over the state of the nation’s economy because of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hamm said he and other industry leaders remain as firmly convinced as ever that having a pro-energy president will be important to the industry’s future.
“We won’t have that with a Biden administration.”
Hamm said Wednesday that the OPEC+ organization of countries (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia) recently has responsibly limited its production to help reduce a global oversupply of crude oil that pushed prices on crude oil delivery contracts for May into negative territory earlier this year.
He contrasted that behavior, however, with its dispute involving Saudi Arabia and Russia early this year that obliterated previously agreed-to production restrictions and sent prices spiraling even before the global coronavirus pandemic took hold of the world’s economy.
“What we need from them is a steady hand at the wheel, but we certainly haven’t had that,” he said.
Hamm also mentioned recently filed court cases seeking to punish players in crude oil trading markets who pushed the value of crude set for May deliveries a half trillion dollars lower and into negative values in April.
Those traders were playing upon concerns there wouldn’t be enough storage to handle the crude that currently was being produced, something that later turned out not to be correct.
“It usually takes a crisis to uncover something that is good or bad about a market,” Hamm said. “Was there insider dealing? We will learn exactly what happened and how they took that much money from U.S. producers on one day in April.”
That, he said, is part of what makes a new grade of crude oil he helped develop called American Gulfcoast Select an attractive target for investors, because it only deals with a product that is destined for refining or export along the nation’s Gulf Coast.
“As long as you have ships that can pull up and load, you don’t have a storage overhang issue that those people played off of in April,” he said.
Hamm said developers of the blend hope to find a trading platform for it soon.
Hamm said he is working on a governor-appointed task force with leaders involving various types of industries to evaluate legal ramifications that could evolve from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the McGirt case.
He noted the issue is of vital concern to both industry officials and Oklahoma’s Civilized Tribes, given that is where the economic value of the Supreme Court’s ruling comes into play.
“There probably will be negotiation between the state and tribes before this is over,” Hamm said, “and I expect an agreement will be in the making before it is all said and done.”
Hamm said Continental is gradually restoring its production as oil prices improve.
“We are getting back to normal, as demand allows.”
He also noted downtimes are when the company does its best work, remarking that Continental Resources had made significant finds during past energy industry slowdowns.
“Keep watching,” he teased, when asked whether the company had found its next big play.
Hamm discussed those various topics with Nissa Darbonne, who is the editor-at-large at Oil and Gas Investor.
The conference, sponsored by Hart Energy, is being attended by about 1,500 people representing employees from the nation’s energy industry companies, suppliers, analysts and other interested parties.
He told conference attendees Wednesday they need to stay disciplined, realizing the energy industry is a cyclical one that ebbs and flows.
“You can’t ever get down on the business,” he said. “You have to have the faith it will come back and you have to be willing to persevere through the tough times. If you don’t have those two things, you are in the wrong business.”