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Obama budget brings worries to Oklahoma, oil industry

BY JAY F. MARKS Modified: February 5, 2010 at 8:24 am •  Published: February 5, 2010
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Enid oilman Harold Hamm doesn’t hesitate when asked about the potential impact of President Barack Obama’s budget proposal.

"I think it would be devastating for the industry, and it would be devastating for the country as a whole,” he said.

Hamm, president of Enid-based Continental Resources, said the industry has made significant strides in the last several years, without much credit for its successes.

"We’ve actually been able to crack the code on natural gas and crude oil production from the shales, which has basically ... given us almost an unlimited supply of natural gas in this country,” he said. "By the same token, we’re on the upswing in this country with oil production.

"A lot of people didn’t think that was possible, but it certainly is.”

Hamm said the growth in domestic oil production has caused a dip in the amount of oil the U.S. imports from other countries.

On the upswing
The U.S. produced nearly 44 percent of its oil supply in 2008, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That figure rose to nearly 49 percent in the second quarter of 2009.

"Not a lot of people realize that,” Hamm said. "It’s a little known fact.”

That progress could go out the window if lawmakers approve Obama’s proposed budget, which includes the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies.

"We don’t consider these subsidies,” Devon Energy Corp. spokesman Chip Minty said. "These are normal business expenses the industry has been allowed to deduct for decades.

"This would be a tax increase that would reduce exploration and production activity, increase energy prices and eliminate jobs.”

Administration officials estimate the loss of those subsidies could cost the oil and gas industry as much as $40 billion over the next decade. Other parts of the president’s budget plan could harm the industry as well. Ongoing Coverage: Politics