The Nobel Peace Prize winner is about to be announced, setting off all the hype that goes with it.
The idea of the near-century-old award is to honor a person who has profoundly changed the world for the better by promoting peace and improving the state of humankind. The prize has gone to such giants as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross.
Even though the prize has come with some controversy, the committee asks the right question each year. What living man or woman has contributed the most to make the world a better place?
And this year, it would be hard to make a better choice than Harold Hamm.
No one in recent times has done more to spark a new revolution in world output, help lift poor people out of poverty and reduce the threat of world terrorism than this energy pioneer from Oklahoma City.
Hamm is the one who discovered a way to get at the massive and bountiful oil and gas fields in North Dakota that are helping make North America energy independent. He didn't invent fracking and horizontal drilling — the breakthrough technologies that have made shale oil and gas drilling possible — but he helped perfect it and was the first oil and gas entrepreneur to put it to use on a widespread commercial scale.
He made the big gamble that he could crack through the Bakken shale and extract the $100 billion treasure chest of energy resources buried two miles deep in the ground. That roll of the dice has already changed the course of history in the 21st century.
What does this massive increase in energy resources have to do with improving life on earth?
Shale oil and gas is now making energy for our transportation and our electric power far cheaper than anyone ever thought imaginable. Overnight, thanks to Harold Hamm, we have solved the Malthusian world problem of scarcity and rising prices of natural resources. The world is not running out of cheap and abundant energy, we are running into it.
Some will counter that fossil fuels and fracking hurt the environment. Wrong. Shale gas has been by far the most important development over the last decade at reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
It is a green fuel par excellence that could alleviate climate change. More shale gas production means less global warming. This relationship has been confirmed by the Energy Information Administration.
And then there's the benefit to the poor from Hamm's energy boom.
The drilling revolution is cutting energy costs in the U.S. and soon will have the same welcome effect all over the globe. Prices are almost certain to fall, thanks to the immense supply of shale oil and gas. Every year that goes by, we discover more and more of it.
This means that over time, Hamm's breakthrough in energy development will have done more to reduce poverty, malnutrition and disease than just about any other invention. One study has found that cheap natural gas in North America has already provided billions of dollars of benefits to poor families as home heating and electric costs fall.
Hamm's drilling revolution will also bring about a more peaceful world — which is what the Nobel Prize is about. Our ability to produce abundant oil and gas resources may be the most effective way to defund terrorists who rely on petro-dollars to finance their barbaric acts.
Flooding the world with cheap natural gas from shale is also a way to protect Europe from the military adventurism of Russia's Vladimir Putin, who hopes to gain energy dominance over two continents.
On a broader scale, many acts of military aggression, civil wars and genocide in places like Africa are about gaining control of energy and other natural resources. As energy becomes cheaper over time, the incentive to wage such wars is dramatically reduced.
That is the gift of Harold Hamm's vision.
Now a multibillionaire, Hamm grew up poor as the 14th of 14 kids in rural Oklahoma. He's now one of the world's great philanthropists, with tens of millions of dollars donated to cancer and diabetes research and other humanitarian causes.
But his legacy is one of finding a superabundant source of energy that will light and power up the world — even in the poorest corners of the globe — for decades to come.
- Stephen Moore is chief economist at the Heritage Foundation.
Originally appeared in Investor's Business Daily