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Energy chiefs' message: Actions, not words, will determine energy future

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The Oklahoman
BY HAROLD HAMM, AUBREY MCCLENDON, LARRY NICHOLS AND TOM WARD

Welcome to Oklahoma, President Obama. We hope you develop a better understanding of the oil and gas industry, one of the largest and most vibrant sectors in the United States, during your visit. As Americans, we share a mutual desire to power our nation with homegrown energy sources. We join you in wanting to secure our energy future by lessening our dangerous dependency on imported oil.

No energy source can do more good for America than domestic oil and gas. You often mention the need for more well-paying jobs. Our companies are creating them — in particular, tens of thousands of every skill level from rig workers and truck drivers to top-flight engineers and Ph.D.s.

The paradigm shift in American oil and gas exploration and production is the brightest spot in our struggling economy. Keeping it going requires understanding of some critical business realities:

Approval of the entire Keystone XL pipeline should happen now — not after the election. Yes, we are pleased TransCanada decided to build a critical section of the project from Cushing to the Gulf Coast. We note that this section doesn't require State Department approval. However, America's greatest benefit will come when we can transport oil from our best energy partner, Canada, and oil-rich North Dakota and Montana.

Private-sector innovation led to the combination of horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing resulting in the most significant resource revolution in the nation's history. The safe and responsible application of these technologies has added new proven gas and oil reserves once inconceivable, and it has made U.S. energy independence a distinct possibility in just the next 10 years. We have now safely and successfully fracture treated 1.2 million wells in the U.S. since 1948 and more than 45,000 wells in 2011 — a safety record that would be the envy of any industry in the country.

As large independent energy companies, we almost always reinvest more than we receive from selling oil and gas production. Therefore, punitive tax increases such as eliminating the business deduction of drilling costs or selectively increasing the energy industry's corporate tax rate by abolishing deductions available to other manufacturers would give us no option but to reduce our drilling programs, resulting in fewer jobs and higher prices.

Our industry invests billions of dollars to ensure our operations are conducted in an environmentally responsible manner. However, with more than a dozen federal agencies in your administration proposing, planning or implementing new regulations — for little or no environmental benefit — there is considerable risk that increased costs and bureaucratic delays will cripple America's energy production and halt the renaissance under way in our nation's steel, plastics, chemical and agricultural industries.

The newfound abundance of oil and gas in America creates for the first time in 50 years the opportunity to break OPEC's headlock on the American economy and reinvigorate America's industrial foundation.

Mr. President, your words suggest you want the economic benefits American natural gas and oil can deliver. We hope your actions follow suit — to date they have not.

The authors lead Oklahoma City-based large independent oil and gas exploration and production companies Continental Resources, Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy and SandRidge Energy.

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