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

    WASHINGTON, March 13 /CNW/ -- 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
    "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, Nancy_Covey@platts.com. A recording of the
Bingaman session is available via podcast at

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