Harold Hamm may be the front-runner to be the next U.S. secretary of energy, but a leading industry observer doubts he would accept the post.
Joseph McMonigle, president of The Abraham Group LLC and former chief of staff at the Department of Energy (DOE), said in a Hedgeye Risk Management LLC webinar that he thinks the shale pioneer would be unlikely to surrender his position as CEO of the company he founded, Continental Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLR), even for a cabinet post.
McMonigle also said that he expects President Trump to tackle infrastructure issues, particularly pipelines, in the first three to six months of his administration. He considers certain Obama administration initiatives, like the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Agreement on climate change, to be in trouble.
Assuming Hamm chooses Oklahoma City over Washington, he might use his influence with the president-elect to move Larry Nichols, co-founder and former chairman and CEO of Devon Energy Corp. (NYSE: DVN), into the position, McMonigle said.
Continental has not returned calls from Hart Energy seeking comment on Hamm’s plans.
Another potential candidate is Rep. Kevin Cramer, R.-N.D., who is a member of Trump’s energy policy team.
“Trump likes him a lot,” McMonigle said. “He was an early supporter of Trump’s. He comes from an energy background. He was a state public utility commissioner in North Dakota and he comes from a state where there’s a lot of upstream development.”
One factor that might diminish enthusiasm about Cramer is that he authored a trade policy bill that particularly targeted OPEC. McMonigle would expect this to be of concern to OPEC and oil markets.
Filling the secretary of energy post could give the president-elect a chance to include a Democrat in his administration. Former Sen. Mary Landrieu, D.-La., is known as a strong supporter of the industry. She was also one of the few who welcomed Trump to the state when it suffered major flooding during the campaign.
“She would be very good,” McMonigle said. “She’d be very credible. It would give him a chance to put a Democrat in the job.”
Key to Trump’s victory was his success in Pennsylvania, which could put Christine Toretti in line for the position. A longtime Republican official and co-chair of Trump’s Pennsylvania campaign, Toretti introduced Trump in September at the Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh, hosted by the gas trade group Marcellus Shale Coalition.
Other potential candidates to be the next secretary of energy, listed by the New York Times, include:
- James L. Connaughton, CEO of Nautilus Data Technologies Inc. and former environmental adviser to President George W. Bush; and
- Robert E. Grady, partner in Gryphon Investors.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who ran unsuccessfully for vice president in 2008, has also indicated interest in being selected for that role.
At this point, it might be way too early to gauge the direction that the president-elect will choose.
“I think they’re actually a lot farther behind than the Clinton folks would have been at this stage,” McMonigle said. “I’d caution people not to follow these names that closely.”