The Bush administration has turned a deaf ear to Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s (D-NM) recommendations on how the president can use his existing authority to cut high-flying natural gas prices and bolster supply.

“The administration’s answer back to Bingaman did not address any of his suggestions for supporting more natural gas production,” said Bill Wicker, a spokesman for Bingaman, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “We see that as a sign that the administration is not willing to make even modest efforts to boost domestic natural gas production.”

The Bush White House “seems to be sticking to its budget plan to cut R&D on unconventional natural gas and do nothing to eliminate the current paperwork backlog that is keeping gas producers from accelerating their efforts to produce new gas in places where it can be developed quickly,” Wicker said.

He noted that the House Appropriations Committee, which marked up part of the administration’s budget request last week, “refused to go along with the administration’s significant cuts to oil and gas programs,” but it was unable to “ramp up funding enough to make a major dent in the paperwork backlog problem, at least in part because the administration did not identify extra resources that appropriators could use.”

In his March letter, Bingaman suggested that President Bush could take “13 specific steps” to trim both natural gas and gasoline prices (see Daily GPI, March 26). Four of the steps focused on natural gas, including:

The Bush administration’s May 26 response, which was written by Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, did not touch on any of these points. The letter focused primarily on steps the White House was taking to bring down gasoline prices in the future.

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