Energy Task Force Will 'Barely Scratch Surface'

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) last week applauded the Bush administration move to create a Cabinet-level task force to address a national energy policy, but he said the effort would "barely scratch the surface" of all the critical energy issues facing the nation at this time.

"It's a start, but it cannot be the end," the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's national energy summit in Washington, DC last Tuesday. "Making progress on such a complicated topic will require a sustained effort over a longer period of time than the two months" that has been allotted Vice President Dick Cheney, who heads up the task force, to come up with an energy strategy.

Bingaman was critical of the administration's decision not to include any Democrats on the task force. ".....[I]f the president's energy policy exercise is to have any long-term effectiveness, it needs to be bipartisan," he said. "So far, Democrats have been excluded from [the] administration's consultations."

Bingaman, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) and other prominent Senate Democrats introduced two companion energy bills last week aimed at boosting supply and managing consumption. The measures come on the heels of the Republicans' omnibus energy legislation, which was unveiled in late February. The only missing link now is the Bush administration's energy strategy.

Bingaman said he and Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK), chief architect of the Republican energy bill, "will cooperate on a set of hearings to explore major issues in energy policy while we wait for the administration to send us the results of the Cheney study," which is due to be released in early April. Susan Parker

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