Bingaman Encouraged by Recent OPEC Signals

May 11, 2004
10:35 AM
With gasoline prices hitting new highs near daily and with the summer driving season approaching, the Bush Administration appears to be giving delayed attention to some of the ideas suggested by Sen. Jeff Bingaman in his March 24 letter. That letter cites 13 specific steps that the President can take now, under current law, to help lower energy prices. One of those steps was for the Administration to press OPEC to increase supply, which would help bring down high prices and ease the pain at the pump for American consumers. Inside EnergyEXTRA last week quoted visiting Algerian Oil Minister Chakib Khelil saying that he talked with Energy Secretary Abraham about the need for OPEC to increase crude oil production. And today, oil prices are lower on a Reuters report that Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi is urging OPEC to raise its production ceiling when it meets on June 3. Any action by OPEC to hike output would be a welcome. Given the impact that high energy prices are having on American families and businesses, Sen. Bingaman hopes that the Administration will act aggressively to battle this mounting economic crisis. For instance, when oil prices soared in 2000, then-President Clinton put his energy secretary on a plane – twice – to meet with OPEC ministers and exert diplomatic pressure on the cartel. Although then-Gov. G.W. Bush criticized Clinton for not doing enough "to jawbone OPEC members to lower the price," Secretary Richardson’s missions were successful. Bingaman believes it is time for the Administration to use every means at its disposal to bring down energy costs. One upcoming opportunity for this could be the 9th International Energy Forum – a high-level, informal ministerial meeting that brings together both energy producing and energy consuming countries to discuss the world’s energy issues. That meeting will be held in Amsterdam from May 22-24. Sen. Bingaman hopes that the Bush Administration will participate at the highest level in this biennial producer-consumer dialogue, taking advantage of the opportunity it will provide to push for more oil production worldwide. He also hopes that some of his suggestions for increasing oil and gas production domestically will get attention from the Administration. Although he sent the letter six weeks ago, he is still awaiting a response. But at least the letter appears to have been read. # # #