The last of the oil barons

One major difference between the oil barons of the past and today's oil corporations is that back then, they started out with nothing.

Steven Senne/AP Photo/File
In this photo made June 16, gas prices are displayed at a BP gas station, in North Attleborough, Mass. Oil conglomerates like BP differ greatly from how individual oil barons functioned in the past.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I've traveled over half our state to get here this evening. I couldn't get away sooner because my new well was coming in at Coyote Hills and I had to see about it. That well is now flowing at two thousand barrels and it's paying me an income of five thousand dollars a week. I have two others drilling and I have sixteen producing at Antelope. So — Ladies and Gentlemen — if I say I'm an oil man, you will agree."

- Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood

So I'm very far from being "an oil man" myself, but a lot of my clients are and their stories fascinate me. Even more fascinating is the contrast between the corporate Little Lord Fauntleroy representing BP today in Congress and the real deal Oil Barons of America, the guys with billion dollar personal stakes in their own wells and crude reserves.

Forbes gives us a look at the last of the Oil Barons, the modern-day Daniel Plainview-types who run their own show, mostly on land as opposed to in the Gulf.

They calculate that Harold Hamm, the 64-year-old self-made wildcatter, has the largest personal oil stake in the nation...

By dint of his 73% ownership of Continental, which he took public in 2007, it can safely be said that Hamm directly owns more oil and natural gas than any other American. How much? At least 190 million barrels of oil and natural gas equivalents.

Hamm isn't drilling holes in the ocean floor, he is focused on his 800,000 acre slice of the Bakken Shale, a 7 million acre formation that stretches from Montana to North Dakota. The article talks about several other oil barons as well and they pretty much all stay out of the water...

Most of (Hamm's) billionaire peers on our list are similarly land-based. George Kaiser, Tim Headington, Jeffrey Hildebrand, Trevor Rees-Jones, Lynn Schusterman, T. Boone Pickens, the Bass Brothers: Their oil and gas fields are almost entirely onshore in promising new plays like the Marcellus Shale, the Eagle Ford Shale and Hamm's hot spot, the Bakken Shale.

This is a great article as it illustrates a big difference between oil barons and the integrated oil corporations. It also gives one that wistful feeling of the world before it was owned by eleven corporations, when a man and his efforts could still make a conquest; most of these guys started with nothing.

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