“We provide a market for them, and they provide a resource for us,” Pickens said.
That notion has proved to be just as divisive, as evidenced by the debate over TransCanada Corp.'s proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
The transcontinental pipeline would carry crude oil from Canada and North Dakota to refineries along the Gulf Coast, but opponents argue the project is not worth the environmental risks that would come with it.
Washington-based environmental group Friends of the Earth has said it opposes the pipeline because it “could devastate ecosystems and pollute water sources and would jeopardize public health.”
Debate over the project has become another political issue, with environmentalists cheering President Barack Obama for rejecting a permit for the pipeline in January and industry officials rallying around Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has promised to approve the project if he is elected in November.
Subsidies and credits
Another point of contention is tax credits and subsidies.
Obama has tried unsuccessfully to eliminate tax incentives available to oil and gas companies, while industry officials have questioned the viability of renewable energy sources without government subsidies.
Continental Resources Inc. CEO Harold Hamm told a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee in September that the industry needs to maintain tax policies that let companies keep their own money to drill.
“America is endowed with an estimated 139.6 billion barrels of recoverable oil — enough to replace Persian Gulf imports for the next 50 years,” Hamm said. “We also have undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas of 1445.3 trillion cubic feet.
“I encourage you to make sure we have sound policies in place so that this energy revolution continues to produce jobs, security and economic benefit for all Americans.”
CONTRIBUTING: ADAM WILMOTH, ENERGY EDITOR