Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told E&E TV (see here):
I would doubt that the votes are there this year to pass the kind of bill that we considered last year.
Remember, the bill considered last year was the wholly inadequate, rip-offset heavy Boxer-Lieberman-Warner bill (see “Boxer bill update: Probably no U.S. CO2 emissions cut until after 2025“).
In a long interview, Bingaman’s discusses “how the Senate climate process may unfold this year,” how the energy bill will play out, especially the impact of a renewable electricity standard requiring utilities to get 20% of their power from renewable sources by 2021. He also discusses “whether President Obama’s call to double the nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years is feasible in our current economic climate.”
Here are the interview excerpts I think are the most interesting:
Monica Trauzzi: Your committee is working on creating a new energy bill, what can we expect to see as the key portions of that bill?
Jeff Bingaman: First focus would be energy efficiency, seeing what more we can do there and building efficiency…. I think it’s clear that the federal government needs to do more to promote efficiency in residential construction, in commercial construction…. How much additional authority has to be provided to FERC to actually involve itself in planning and siting and cost allocation decisions to get that additional transmission capacity built? What else is needed by way of incentives for utilities to provide interactive communication with their customers so that they can do a better job with demand-side management and reduce the need for more power plant construction in that regard.
Monica Trauzzi: What’s the timeline on the roll out of the bill? When can we expect to see it?
Jeff Bingaman: We’re hoping to be able to mark up a bill in the next four to five weeks.
Monica Trauzzi: The renewable electricity standard, something near and dear to your heart, is that expected to be part of this as well?
Jeff Bingaman: … we’ve passed a version of the renewable portfolio standard or renewable electricity standard through the Senate now three times in three previous congresses. The House passed it in the last Congress and we were not able to pass it in the Senate. So, I’m optimistic that this time we will be able to pass a bill through the Senate and House and get it to the president for signature.
Monica Trauzzi: There are some Republicans that disagree with some of the provisions in the bill. One of the issues that Senator Murkowski has with the proposal is that it’s one-size-fits-all and it sort of puts certain regions of the country at a disadvantage…. perhaps the Southeast is not going to be able to meet these requirements in the RPS because of the types of renewables that they’re able to produce?
Jeff Bingaman: Well, we clearly want to take all of those considerations into account. I think there are, of course, experts who say that when you look at biomass and biofuels and the potential to produce energy from those sources, the Southeast is not at that substantial a disadvantage relative to other parts of the country.
Jeff Bingaman: Well, I’m hoping we can make the energy bill a bipartisan bill. We have done that in the past, both in 2005 and in 2007. And I hope that this year we can do that again. I don’t kid myself into thinking that all aspects of the bill are going to be supported by a strong bipartisan majority.
Monica Trauzzi: Is [Obama's "proposed doubling the nation's supply of renewable energy over the next three years"] at all feasible?
Jeff Bingaman: Well, I think it is feasible….
Monica Trauzzi: How would you like your committee to be engaged in the climate debate?
Jeff Bingaman: Well, the members on our committee have expressed a great interest in being involved in this debate and we have scheduled some briefings to just keep committee members informed as we find useful folks to come in and brief us on what’s going on on cap and trade and how it works and what the different proposals are. I don’t expect that we would try to report legislation on the subject….
Monica Trauzzi: There was a lot of criticism last year about how the Lieberman-Warner debate was handled. How does the Senate need to approach the debate this year in order to not have some of those similar problems?
Jeff Bingaman: Well, I hope that we – you know, this is a very complex subject, trying to write a cap-and-trade bill, at least in my view its complex. And when you change one piece of a proposed regime, cap-and-trade regime, it impacts on other pieces as well. So the ideal thing would be to have a structure of a cap-and-trade system that comes to the floor for consideration that has good support, both parties supporting it in a pretty broad cross-section of the Senate. How we get from here to there, I’m just not sure.
Monica Trauzzi: From what you sit today, are the votes there to pass this through this year?
Jeff Bingaman: I don’t know. I don’t know. As I say, it’s hard to know because we don’t yet have a concrete outline or framework that we could go and ask people about yet. It’s still unclear. I would doubt that the votes are there this year to pass the kind of bill that we considered last year, but that doesn’t mean that we couldn’t get the votes to pass a significant cap-and-trade bill.
Monica Trauzzi: Are you feeling, is the Senate feeling pressure from the international community to come to the Copenhagen meeting with something very concrete and substantive?
Jeff Bingaman: Oh, I think that the people in the administration would very much like us to be to a point where we have enacted our own cap-and-trade legislation in time for that meeting to occur in Copenhagen. I think that would be ideal, but frankly, I think it is more important that we get agreement on a cap-and-trade proposal that will actually work and that will result in reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. And that’s the part we haven’t yet solved.
Monica Trauzzi: In his budget proposal the president calls for oil company tax breaks and subsidies to be repealed and Senator Murkowski argues that this is going to make it very difficult for these companies to do business. What is your take?
Jeff Bingaman: Well, I don’t have a take on all of the various proposals the president made regarding the oil and gas tax provisions, but a couple of them I thought made some sense. The one he has proposed, as I understand the budget proposal, that we go ahead and establish some kind of excise tax on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, which would then be offset by royalties paid. That would be a way to ensure that for all of the production of oil and gas in that area, the taxpayer receives something by way of royalty or excise tax. I think that’s an appropriate provision. It’s one that we talked about before. I supported it in committee. We tried to pass it on the floor and were not able to in the last Congress.