Acknowledging that the current Congress has been marred by fighting over energy issues, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Thursday he intends to “push early and hard” for a bipartisan, comprehensive approach to energy policy in the upcoming 111th Congress.

“There is a great deal of work that needs to be done” with respect to energy issues, Bingaman said in a speech on the Senate floor, adding that the Congress’ record on energy this year has been less than acceptable.

Due to “partisan rancor…we do not have as much to show [for] our efforts as I would like,” he said. But “I am pleased that in the past few weeks we have begun to find a bipartisan way forward on energy again. We put together an energy tax incentive package that won very broad support here in the Senate and passed with a margin of 93 to 2” Wednesday (see Daily GPI, Sept. 25).

In the continuing resolution (CR), which the House passed Wednesday and forwarded to the Senate, “the moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration has been lifted for much of the Outer Continental Shelf. That’s a development that I support,” Bingaman said. If the CR is approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Bush, the existing federal government ban on drilling off the Pacific and East coasts and in parts of the eastern Gulf of Mexico will expire in less than a week (see Daily GPI, Sept. 25).

“We’ve also fully funded the direct loan program for retooling the auto industry, permitting up to $25 billion in loans to be made to help move our transportation sector into a cleaner and more energy-efficient future,” he said.

“I hope that all of these accomplishments make it across the finish line and actually become law in the next few days. If they do, they will help set the stage for what I believe will be a re-emergence of bipartisanship on energy after this election is behind us and as we reconvene…next year as the 111th Congress.”

Bingaman spelled out the challenges facing Congress in 2009:

Looking to next year, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who sits on the Senate energy panel, said Congress needs to come up with a “good, comprehensive energy policy that works for this nation.”

©Copyright 2008Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news reportmay not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in anyform, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.