Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, says expanding the Energy Information Administration (EIA) will be one of the key priorities of the upcoming Congress.

“One of the most effective windows we have on energy markets, the Energy Information Administration, needs to be significantly expanded and strengthened so that we can better understand the forces driving energy prices,” he said in an op-ed piece last week.

Bingaman did not elaborate on how the EIA should be expanded. The agency currently issues weekly, monthly and annual reports on natural gas and crude oil markets, as well as reports on other energy issues. Industry, traders and energy analysts eagerly await the release of the EIA’s weekly natural gas and petroleum inventory reports. Any surprises in the reports are usually enough to cause a swing in oil and gas futures prices in either direction. Congress routinely looks to the EIA for information when formulating energy policy.

As the chief energy policymaker in the Senate, Bingaman said there is no room for partisanship in Congress on energy issues. “Throughout much of the past year, energy issues fell victim to a highly partisan environment in Congress as energy prices emerged as a key concern for voters and as an issue on the campaign trail.”

As a result, “Congress didn’t actually do anything on energy. Any issue that becomes polarized along party lines is not going to get very far in the United States Senate,” he noted.

Bingaman renewed his pledge to “push early and hard in the next Congress to return us to an effective, bipartisan and comprehensive approach to energy policy.” He further noted that when the next Congress convenes he “will be the longest-serving member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources…stretching back to Sen. [Henry] ‘Scoop’ Jackson in the 1970s.”

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