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Hamm, top oil exec, tells crowd at Williston Basin conference: 'Beat Barack Obama'

BISMARCK - Harold Hamm cut down his speech to three words: "Beat Barack Obama."

The Continental Resources CEO who led a panel discussion Thursday during the final day of the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference said energy will play a huge role in upcoming elections.

Hamm, whose company led the way in using horizontal drilling to tap North Dakota's oil producing potential, is Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney's energy committee chairman. He said he was happy to accept the role but said it was unusual for someone associated with government to want to work with someone knowledgeable about energy.

"That's not what happened in the past," Hamm said. "If you knew something about it, they left you on the sideline."

Hamm called Obama's energy policy a failure.

"Romney has a policy of abundance," Hamm said. "The other one is one of scarcity."

Hamm also called for the development of major pipelines in North Dakota to reduce the price discount that Bakken crude receives in comparison to Texas oil. Hamm blames a shipping bottleneck for the discount and called for multiple new pipelines.

"We need all we can get here. We need to get rid of this differential and we've got to do it now," Hamm said. "We're way behind time on it."

The members of the CEO panel also addressed being good stewards of the state that has become No. 2 in the nation in oil production, and dealing with problems such as truck traffic and rapid growth.

Jim Volker, CEO of Whiting Petroleum, said the future of the Bakken "just gets better."

"It gets better for all of us," Volker said. "It gets better for the people of the state, it gets better for state tax revenue and it gets better for all the people that we're bringing in to enjoy the quality of life in North Dakota."