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Senate to Hold Summit to Reach Compromise on Energy Bill

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has agreed to help lead a summit in mid-September in an attempt to reach a bipartisan compromise on energy legislation.

"There's no shortage of [energy] ideas that elected members of Congress seem to be putting out there. This is just an effort to try and corral all of those ideas and try and come up with [something] to break this deadlock that has gripped the Congress for the past several weeks," said Bingaman spokesman Bill Wicker.

"It's gone beyond ridiculous. They ought to be able to meet in the middle on some of it," he told NGI.

Prior to leaving for the August recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) proposed the summit idea and asked Bingaman to lead it. He also wrote to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to get his support for a summit where Democrats and Republicans could "air this out without all the huffing and puffing and finger-waving and bellyaching that's been going on on the Senate floor," Wicker said.

McConnell hasn't formally responded yet, but he "[has] indicated a willingness to consider it," according to Wicker. The summit is expected to be held in mid-September, which won't give the Senate much time to compromise on energy issues and pass legislation. Congress is scheduled to adjourn in early October, he said. "It is getting close to the witching hour."

However, "if they all decide to take off their partisan hats," Wicker believes a deal may be possible on energy issues, such as energy speculation, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (swapping 70 million bbl of light, sweet crude for 70 million bbl of heavy, sour crude) and offshore drilling. "I think so. It's interesting to watch how quickly things can move at the end of a Congress."

The summit will probably be a one-day event and held on Capitol Hill. "I would assume there'll be some subject matter experts" from the energy industry, Wall Street and think tanks who will attend, Wicker noted, adding that the summit's format and agenda have yet to be formalized.

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