Just as the United States has been able to make its way out of energy crisis and into “energy renaissance,” so too can be Israel emerge on this path – as both countries move toward achieving energy security, one of America’s wealthiest oil developers told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
Harold Hamm, chairman and CEO of Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources, is currently on a three-day tour of Israel under the leadership of Samuel Eisenstat, co-chair with Hamm at the Council for a Secure America – a sponsor of the tour and proponent of energy self-sufficiency. While most members of the group hail from the American South’s oil industry, a few eminent Israel advocates like former New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams also joined in the tour, Eisenstat said.
“If America is energy independent it doesn’t have to cater its foreign policy to oil,” Eisenstat said, regarding the relationship between southern oilmen and Israel advocates.
Despite the profession of most of the 15 participants, the trip focused mostly on promoting Israel among America’s energy superpowers – taking them to sites like the Western Wall, a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, holy Christian sites, Sderot and an air force base. They did, however, also travel to the Weizmann Institute to see scientific progress there, in order “to see that Israel more than an army camp,” explained Eisenstat, who is also a trustee and audit chairman of the North European Oil Royalty Trust and a former AIPAC president.
Serving as the director of his company, Continental Resources, since its 1967 inception, Hamm has seen the firm grow into “a top 10 petroleum liquids producer in the United States and the largest leaseholder in the nation’s premier oil play,” according to company information. In addition to serving as energy advisor to Mitt Romney during his presidential campaign, Hamm is now the 30th richest person in American and the 76th richest man in the world, according to Forbes magazine’s 2012 rankings.
In 1995, Continental Resources drilled the first-ever horizontal oil field in North Dakota’s Red River bed, a tight rock formation with very limited permeability but containing 250 million barrels of oil, Hamm told the Post.
“That led us into other thin bed reservoirs,” he said.
This experience eventually led the firm to horizontal drilling in the Bakken Play of North Dakota and Montana – the largest field found in the last 40 years internationally and containing over 24 billion barrels of recoverable oil, Hamm added.
The finds at Bakken in 2003 are an ideal model of “the energy renaissance” taking place in America, and the horizontal drilling technique that accompanies the discoveries is a technology that “can change the world,” Hamm noted.
“We think it’s good for America and certainly it’s good for Israel,” he said. “We think energy independence is certainly good for America and [for becoming] free from the OPEC dominance that we’ve been under for last 50 to 60 years. We’re free to act.”
Liberated from the psychology that the US must abide by this influence, the country can now have as warm relations with whomever it chooses, Hamm explained.
“America will not have to kowtow to countries just due to the fact that they have oil production in the future,” Hamm said.
Between 2011 and 2012 alone, US oil imports dropped from 60 percent to 37%, making Hamm believe that energy independence will be a reality in the next decade or so.
Like in Israel, where elements of oil shale and natural gas face the criticism of environmental organizations, Hamm acknowledged that he, too, has faced such censure along the way. But with horizontal drilling, he explained, one well can now replace eight conventional wells, and the surface impact has become very minimal.
“It’s come a long way,” he said, noting that continually fine-tuning technology is key to oil and gas progress.
As far as Israel’s energy security goes, Hamm praised the country’s natural gas exploration and the tremendous finds that have emerged in the Mediterranean Sea.
“That’s going to bring them a long way to where they need to be,” he said. “I’m just mentally optimistic. Looking back, America thought we were in perpetual decline with oil and now we find out we’re not. It’s not something you give up on – the technology has been terrific.”