Bingaman discusses new greenhouse gas legislation, talks E.U. policy

During today's E&ETV Event Coverage, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, outlines the major energy and environmental issues his committee plans to take up this year. Bingaman discusses his plans for an upcoming conference with European climate policy experts to address the lessons learned from Europe's implementation of climate policies. Bingaman also discusses coal-to-liquids technology, saying he is not confident it will play a significant role in a climate change solution.


Sen. Jeff Bingaman: All right, thank you very much. Let me just go through a sort of list of all, not all, but at least some of the issues that we're trying to make progress on. There are a lot of energy related issues and environment related issues that ... come to some closure on as far as legislative proposals in the next few weeks.

First, let me just start with climate change since that is an issue that's front stage center for much of the Congress and much of the country. We continue to try to work toward a final draft of legislation that we can introduce on that subject. I've circulated a draft with Senator Specter, as you may know, and we have had a series of meetings with staff. We've also had a series of meetings with so-called stakeholders, which includes pretty much everybody that's interested in the subject.

The next event that we're doing in this connection is on Monday. We have a meeting where we're bringing in some experts about the European trading system, cap-and-trade system there. I'm not great with some of these pronunciations, but Jos Delbeke, the E.U. Commission, he's the director of climate change and air for the European commission's directorate; general on the environment in Brussels, Per-Otto Wold, who is with Point Carbon in Oslo; Garth Edwards with Shell in London; Jean-Yves Caneill, you people speak better French than I do, with Electricite de France, or however you say that; Bruno Vanderborght, who is with a cement company in Zurich; and Denny Ellerman who is at MIT.

So those are the experts. I think that should be very useful. The focus of it is going to be what are the mistakes that Europe made in their initial effort to establish a cap-and-trade system that they are now correcting and how can we avoid those in any kind of a cap-and-trade system that we might adopt in this country? And what are the different circumstances that would require us to pursue a different course?

So that's on climate change. I'm hoping that sometime in April, the first couple of weeks of April, we can go ahead and introduce that legislation. And it will be one of, at that point it will be one of about five proposals pending in the Senate. And I do not know precisely how those will be sorted through and when the opportunity will arise for us to consider those on the Senate floor. All of that is still to be determined. Much of the jurisdiction for this issue, as you know, is in the Environment and Public Works Committee. And I believe all the other bills that have been introduced are now in that committee. And likely the bill that we introduce will wind up there as well, and we then will be in the process of urging people to seriously consider our proposals.

I should point out that this is not something that is sort of an Energy Committee initiative. This is something I think is absolutely essential to the development of energy policy and so I've been pushing it now for a couple of years.

Another set of issues, biofuels. We are working to conclude agreement on some legislation for a new biofuel standard, and we'll see what else we can add into that to promote more production and use of biofuels in our transportation sector primarily. I think that's very essential.

One other area we had a good hearing on yesterday is the whole issue of the future of coal and carbon capture and sequestration. We had John Deutch and Ernie Moniz from MIT making a presentation as well as EPRI and the National Resource Defense Council. They all testified about what they thought needed to be done and what they thought the practical course forward was in requiring use of carbon capture and sequestration in any new coal plants. That's an issue we had introduced legislation on yesterday to try to ramp up the federal support for large commercialized demonstration projects in this.

I think it's becoming clear, and certainly this is a point that's made strongly in the MIT report, that we need to put much more in the way of effort into large-scale commercialization of carbon capture and sequestration technology. That although it's been proved in small demonstrations, it has not been shown to be a solution for the large amounts of carbon that we are currently producing from our coal-fired plants or are expected to produce from future coal-fired plants. So that's an issue that we would hope to legislate on as well.

Energy efficiency, we've got draft legislation now that we are continuing to perfect and improve upon, that we hope we'll be able to present to the full committee for a markup early in April. And it will try to take what we did in the 2005 energy bill and then add to it by way of increased incentives and encouragement for greater efficiency in the use of energy, and that's efficiency in the use of energy in the transportation sector and in residential energy use, in lighting, in electricity use and production. There's a great many things that we will have as part of that.

I think I've indicated several times before that I would hope, as part of that, we can also move ahead with a renewable portfolio standard or a renewable energy requirement, whatever you want to call it, so that we would have a national provision in place. As you know, that provision has passed the Senate now three times in the last three Congresses and we would like to see it pass not only the Senate, but the House and get signed into law. So that would be part of what I would hope we would finally wind up with as part of an energy efficiency bill. Renewable energy, generation there, I think in that regard the renewable portfolio standard is part of that. Extending the tax provisions that we enacted in 2005, and hopefully adding to those is another major part of that solution.

And we're working, of course, in the Finance Committee to develop companion legislation that would be a companion to whatever we do in the Energy Committee that would update these tax provisions related to energy efficiency and renewable energy.

[End of Audio]