Energy Bill Conference Report


Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

 -- I am pleased that we are able to bring before the Senate a conference report on energy policy that is truly a product of bipartisan consensus.  That bipartisan consensus had its beginning earlier this year in the Senate Energy Committee, where the Chairman, my colleague from New Mexico , reached out to our side of the aisle and pledged to work in good faith with us on a comprehensive energy bill.  We took him up on the offer, and we had an open and bipartisan committee process.  The result was a bill that we could recommend to the Senate by a 21-1 vote.  On the floor of the Senate, we continued to work together in an open and bipartisan floor process.  The result that the Senate as a whole passed the energy bill by a margin of 85-12.


-- In conference, my colleague from New Mexico was adamant that we use an open and bipartisan process, including House Democratic Members and staff who had been excluded in the past from their process.  He successfully persuaded Chairman Joe Barton of the wisdom of proceeding in this manner, and it proved to work very well.  The result was a conference report that was signed by 13 out of 14 Senate conferees.  The conference report was adopted in the House of Representatives with 75 House Democrats, led by Congressman John Dingell, voting for the bill.


-- Most of us came away from the conference with many provisions that we were happy to have in the final conference report, and some provisions that we reluctantly had to give up on.  I am very sorry that we do not have a bill before us with a Renewable Portfolio Standard.  I know that Chairman Barton is disappointed that he was not able to get a number of his priorities agreed to in conference.  But the nature of good conferences is that they push towards what can be agreed to by all, and not everything ultimately falls into that category.


-- The conference report has strong provisions for increasing energy supplies from a number of sources.  As I have often said, increased domestic energy production, in an environmentally sensitive manner, is one of the four key elements of sound energy policy.


-- The conference report has strong provisions for increasing energy efficiency.  Over a dozen major new appliance efficiency standards are called for under this Act.  The Federal government’s own energy efficiency will be enhanced through a strengthened Federal Energy Management Program and through extension of authority to enter into Energy Savings Performance Contracts.  And the conference report expands authorizations both for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and Weatherization and State Energy Programs.


-- The conference report has perhaps some of its strongest provisions in the area of protection of energy consumers.  Both the electricity and natural gas provisions of the conference contain broad new provisions to ensure market transparency and to prohibit market manipulation.  In the area of electric utility mergers, we have expanded the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over mergers involving existing generation plants, that is, plants in existence at the time that the merger takes place.  We have also created new requirement in the Federal Power Act for special scrutiny of possible cross-subsidization in mergers.


-- The conference report authorizes a broad range of research, development, demonstration, and deployment activities for new energy technologies that will help us toward our energy future.  It couples them with energy tax incentives and a comprehensive new approach to loan guarantees at the Department that will help these technologies over the final threshold into commercialization.


-- This conference report also will result in major changes in our national slate of transportation fuels.  It requires that we reach a target of 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2012.  It sets a path forward for the development and commercial introduction of ethanol made from cellulosic biomass, which promises to have a profound impact on our ability to manufacture and use renewable fuels in the future.


-- The energy security needs of our country that are not addressed in this bill will not wait for another decade.  The threats posed by our dependence on oil imports or by global warming will continue to face us.  This bill does maintain and increase our investment in a range of clean energy sources, but it does not contain a critical mechanism that was contained in our Senate energy bill – the Renewable Portfolio Standard. This bill has positive and helpful measures to increase domestic refining, but consumers will still face burdens at the gas pump. 


-- I believe that our work on this bill is finished and, on balance, we have done a good job.  But securing our energy future is, in some sense, a job that is never done.  I look forward, after we have had a time to rest and reflect on what we have done, to working with Sen. Domenici on our continuing challenges of pushing for more clean energy, and policies that will eventually reduce oil imports and lower gas prices, and measures that will slow down and reverse the emissions that lead to global warming.