UND Today

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‘Game Changer’: Harold Hamm talks future of energy policy

Energy policy must strike balance between environmental, national security concerns, UND donor and energy magnate says

Andrew Armacost and Harold Hamm
UND President Andrew Armacost (left) and Harold Hamm discuss energy policy at UND’s Memorial Union. Photo by Joe Banish/UND Today.

Energy magnate Harold Hamm visited UND last week to outline his vision for the future of America’s energy policy — a policy he has played a significant role in shaping through his company’s innovative approach.

Hamm was joined onstage at the Memorial Union’s Social Stairs by UND President Andrew Armacost for a question-and-answer session, after which Hamm greeted attendees and signed copies of his book, “Game Changer: Our 50 Year Mission to Secure America’s Energy Independence.” 

Hamm founded Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources as a 21-year-old in 1967. The company was a pioneer in using horizontal drilling to increase oil output from the Bakken Formation, which led to its growth as the largest producer of oil in both Oklahoma and North Dakota. 

In 2012, Hamm and Continental donated $10 million to UND, a gift that helped establish the Harold Hamm School of Geology and Geological Engineering.

Hamm said the title of his book reflects the transformative power of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing or fracking, for oil and natural gas extraction, respectively.

“Within two decades, it really transformed the entire industry,” he said. “We went from what everybody considered terminal decline of our production in the U.S. and having to import from the Middle East or Canada. Since that point, U.S. production has tripled to about 13 million barrels a day.”

With regards to fracking, Hamm said the process has allowed the U.S. to quadruple its output of natural gas, turning the nation into the world’s largest exporter of liquified natural gas (LNG). According to Statista, a German data collection firm, the U.S. exported 104.3 billion cubic meters of LNG in 2022.  

Hamm added that since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European allies have turned to the U.S. for LNG in the face of decreasing supply and the rising price of exports from Russia, the country that historically has had a monopoly on supplying the continent. 

“One shipment of LNG will heat a million homes for a month,” he said. 

Hamm said that Continental’s strategy is driven by a “culture of possible,” the belief that anything worth doing is achievable through hard work, taking calculated risks and perseverance. 

“I’ve never been risk averse – you don’t get anywhere doing that,” he said. “Somebody once told me ‘The edge of the limb is where the fruit lies.’” 

Attendees gather at the Memorial Union’s Social Stairs for a question and answer session featuring UND President Andrew Armacost and Harold Hamm. Photo by Joe Banish/UND Today.

Addressing the push to transition to more renewable sources of energy, Hamm said it is important to strike a balance between developing these resources and preserving America’s national security interests. 

Hamm specifically cited coal as a diverse resource, including the potential to extract rare earth elements from lignite coal, which are vital for the manufacturing of many consumer electronics. 

“We’re going to need those elements, because unfortunately, China owns about 85% of them,” he said. “You also need the reliability of coal for power generation, but you don’t need 100% use of coal. 

Hamm encouraged students in the audience to pursue a vocation that they are passionate about, advice he says led him to his career in the geological sciences. 

“I grew up on a farm and loved nature – all of the great things like mountains and seas,” he said. “You’ll do much better at the things that you’re naturally talented at – you’ll never work a day in your life. 

Hamm also stressed the importance of operating under a core set of values, which he said were instilled in him through his family-oriented upbringing in rural Oklahoma. 

“Some people say I’m kind of lucky being the last of 13 kids – they could have quit at 12,” he joked. “I grew up in a God-fearing family. My parents taught us right from wrong early on. Work ethic was a big thing – we all worked as a family unit. You have to have values that you build your life around, or you don’t get anywhere.”