U.S. Senator Bingaman Outlines Energy Committee Agenda at Platts Energy Podium

2007-03-13 13:33 790

WASHINGTON, March 13 /Xinhua-PRNewswire/ -- U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told a standing-room only Platts Energy Podium event in Washington on Monday that his committee would focus on six key legislative issues, beginning with resolution of offshore leasing disputes, climate change legislation, and energy technology policy. He said the Committee was off to a good start already, having held some 16 hearings and several all-day conferences barely two months into the new Congressional session.

"I hope that we can move ahead and actually make progress in all these areas over the next few months," Bingaman said. "I think the timing of actual introduction of legislation and consideration of that legislation both in committee and on the floor is uncertain."

While climate change legislation is a Congressional priority, Bingaman said prospects of enactment within the next two years depends on the support of the Bush Administration. If the administration chooses to "oppose any and all mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, then it's going to be very difficult to get anything done," the New Mexico Democrat warned. He urged the Bush White House to spur Senate Republicans who have been on the fence about climate change to favor a bill and overcome the 60-vote hurdle needed for passage.

"I believe strongly as I have for sometime that we need to have a long-term policy to curb green house gases without dampening our economic growth in the process," Bingaman said. He pointed to the draft legislation he released in January, saying it had already received praise from the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration as being adequate to accomplishing that. "We’re hoping some time in April that we’re in a position to actually put forward a new and improved version of that legislation," he continued, noting that the new version will lead to even lower overall carbon emissions than the original draft and will place a greater value on carbon cuts. He emphasized that any federal standard limiting carbon emissions should supersede any state-developed standards.

On the topic of taxes, the Senator said he is undecided about whether tax breaks awarded the oil and gas industry by the 2005 Energy Policy Act should be rolled back or eliminated. "The tax provisions were included to encourage more [domestic] energy production," Bingaman explained. "It’s not clear they’ve accomplished that objective and we need to bring in some experts to make that determination." House-passed legislation, which has yet to be taken up by the Senate, would roll back the tax breaks and dedicate the funds to renewable and alternative fuel.

As for the President’s call for substantial increases in biofuel production and use by 2017, Bingaman said, "We’re trying to look at how much of that goal can be accomplished realistically." Meanwhile, Committee discussions of energy efficiency and conservation standards seemed to provide an easier reality check.

"I think all the Democrats on the Committee have indicated their support for a 15% renewable energy requirement or portfolio standard," Bingaman said. But details on how to properly encourage smart grid development and implement tougher energy efficiency standards for buildings, lighting, and appliances have yet to take shape.

Regarding U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil and gas lease disputes, Bingaman said, "We’re trying to settle upon a way to ensure that the Treasury is made whole." The U.S. Treasury has yet to collect billions of dollars in leasing fees because of the ongoing disputes. Some of the leases were issued up to 12 years ago. "I hope in the next week or two we’ll have some legislation to propose in that area," Bingaman said. But he raised doubts in the minds of some Platts Energy Podium attendees about the legislation’s likely reception when he added, "At least it will be my best effort at getting the issue resolved."

Sponsored by Platts, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Platts Energy Podium provides an ongoing forum for prominent newsmakers and the press to address important energy and environmental issues. Members of the media may receive complementary registration for Energy Podium events by contacting Nancy Covey at 202-942-8719, A recording of the Bingaman session is available via podcast at .

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Source: Platts
Keywords: Oil/Energy