(Reuters) - Central to Harold Hamm’s energy policy is a bold idea: A technology-led production boom could end U.S. reliance on Middle Eastern oil by 2020 and boost U.S. output by some 5 million barrels a day.
Some experts agree such gains are feasible. Innovations in drilling techniques have already unlocked an estimated 100 years of natural gas supply and made the country the world’s top producer.
Since 2008, output of U.S. oil and so-called gas liquids has surged 1.1 million barrels a day. Coupled with a drop in demand, U.S. reliance on oil imports should fall to 48 percent this year, from 65 percent in 2005, says energy consultancy Raymond James. (So far, the bonanza has made little dent in the U.S. trade deficit, since oil prices are still strong.)
Drawing on Hamm’s advice, Romney’s “Abundance in America” policy calls for U.S. energy independence by 2020. It involves cutting regulations, letting state governments award exploration permits on federal lands, opening new shale and offshore territory for drilling, and keeping tax benefits for oil producers. Shifting permits to states could slash the waiting period for new wells, Hamm says. North Dakota takes 10 days to permit a new well, he says, compared to 10 months for a federal permit.
Romney’s plan makes little mention of reducing fossil fuel usage. U.S. gasoline prices, around $4 a gallon, are near a record high. Hamm says consumers will still conserve fuel to save money. The paper lacks any mention of climate change, which Hamm says may not be attributable to man-made causes.
Obama, for his part, has touted recent gains in domestic oil and gas production. He is campaigning on an “all of the above” energy policy. It calls for more drilling, but also higher efficiency standards for vehicles, and government support for renewables like wind and solar.
Reporting By Joshua Schneyer and David Sheppard; editing by Michael Williams