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Oil execs see U.S. shifting to gas

M. Scott Carter
Dolan Media Newswires

Oklahoma City — America is undergoing a shift that will cause major changes to its energy markets, two oil executives predicted.

Speaking this week at the International Energy Policy Conference, Oklahoma City oilman Robert Hefner III said the country is deep into a transition from liquid- to gas-based energy.

“With the cost of oil, we will eventually phase it out on a global scale,” said Hefner, CEO of Oklahoma City-based GHK Exploration Co., a private natural gas exploration and production company.

The next step, Hefner said, is natural gas.

“America alone has produced 15 to 20 billion tons of CO2 emissions and they didn’t have to be here,” he said. “We need to accelerate this transition to a clean source of energy.”

Hefner predicted that natural gas would be the energy sector’s bridge to a hydrogen-based energy system.

“U.S. civilization’s destiny is to use hydrogen to live sustainably on Earth,” he said.

Hefner cautioned, though, that the country could not leapfrog to a noncarbon economy.

“Again, it’s natural gas,” he said. “Our energy security could be built on natural gas. There are 2.2 million miles of natural gas pipeline. The infrastructure is there.”

Enid oilman Harold Hamm agreed — to a point.

Hamm, CEO of Enid-based Continental Resources Inc., an independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company, said at some point, America would turn to natural gas, but that change wouldn’t happen for several more decades.

“Eventually, we will transition to natural gas,” he said. “But there’s a lot of oil around. And the next 50 years or so, we’re going to be using oil.”

And while Hamm said oil is a scarce commodity globally, he said there is still plenty in the United States.

“The problem is so many people have given up looking for oil,” Hamm said.

Hamm said the country has been on a wild ride with energy prices.

“There has been a tremendous backlash,” he said. “But fortunately our company was well-positioned.”

Hamm said he doubts oil prices will return to the $147-per-barrel level anytime soon but he predicted the price would reach $100 per barrel by 2010. And, he said, politics plays a big role in the industry.

“Politics always enters into our business,” Hamm said. “Recently, I’ve had eight or 10 meetings with members of Congress.”

While Hamm acknowledged differences with members of Congress and energy industry leaders, he said making campaign contributions — or what he called friend raising — has helped.

“We’ve been able to walk in with $50,000 and have a real respectable meeting,” he said. “It is part of that advocacy that we have to do to make things work.”

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