Energy Conference Opening Statement of Senate Energy Chairman Jeff Bingaman

June 27, 2002
12:00 AM
I appreciate the opportunity to lay out some broad opening thoughts for this important conference. Energy is clearly central to our present and future economic prosperity. So, this conference has an important responsibility. A balanced and comprehensive bill is key if we are to have an energy policy that is good for the economy over the long term. The Senate has made a substantial investment in the proposals it is bringing to this conference. We spent some 25 legislative days on our bill, and considered and disposed of more than 160 amendments on all aspects of energy policy and energy tax incentives. The final product commanded very broad bipartisan support: 88 Senators voted to pass the Senate Amendment to H.R. 4. That sort of broad bipartisan support is an essential requirement to get anything done in the Senate. Any significant bill generally takes 60 votes to move to final passage in the Senate, and energy policy has not been an exception. Ultimately, to get the bill done, we had to invoke cloture, which the Senate did on a broad bipartisan basis. We will have to shoot for that same broad bipartisan support if we are to have a successful conference. Based on my conversations with Chairman Tauzin, I am optimistic as we start this next phase of the process. I think this conference has an excellent opportunity to develop a balanced and comprehensive proposal that can pass both Houses and go to the President’s desk. We will need to be realistic, though. Our conference report won’t, of necessity, have every idea that each particular conferee thinks is important. While there are many areas of agreement between the House and the Senate, we all know there are some major areas of disagreement. And we don’t have unlimited time to work. This chart shows the tentative schedule that was distributed earlier this year by the Assistant Majority Leader and the Assistant Republican Leader of the Senate. There aren’t a lot of work days left before our scheduled adjournment date in October. And the longer we take, the more competition we will have for our attention and efforts as we try to deal with 13 appropriation bills, homeland security, prescription drug reform, accounting reform, AMTRAK, minimum wage and so on. I am committed, though, to working with the Chairman to put together an overall package that supports energy supply, increases energy efficiency and productivity and keeps our energy policy in sync with other important societal goals, such as economic development and protection of the environment, including global climate. I think we will find that our greatest tool in moving toward a sensible energy policy for the 21st century will be to expand our efforts to develop, and then apply, new science and technology to some of our long-standing energy policy problems. These are big issues, and there is a lot for staff to work on and for Members to deal with. I am confident that we will be up to them, and I am glad to be getting a start today, so that staff can start working issues during this next recess. I hope we can reconvene in July to start adopting joint staff recommendations related to the conference report.