Muckraker: Grist on Politics

“Getting a cap-and-trade program enacted is going to be a heavy lift,” Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) told a group of reporters over breakfast this morning.

Bingaman, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, spoke today about the challenges and opportunities in both climate and energy legislation, stressing that while he doesn’t “despair of it,” addressing those concerns will be a “substantial challenge for the next president” and Congress.

Bingaman was asked about some of the goals put forward recently by national leaders in that realm. Speaking of Al Gore’s recent call to move to 100 percent carbon-free electricity in 10 years, Bingaman called the goal “visionary” and said he “would like to see it happen,” but he thinks “that’s going to take a long time,” and it’s “a hard goal to meet.”

Asked about Barack Obama’s climate plan, Bingaman called the presidential candidate’s goal to cut emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by mid-century “ambitious” — and suggested that it was not politically or even technologically feasible.

Looking ahead to next year, Bingaman said he would revisit his proposal for a climate bill that includes a safety valve, or a mechanism to limit the price of carbon credits. Bingaman said today that the price trigger in his proposal this year — $12 a ton — was “too low.” He also suggested that among top priorities next year will be a new energy bill, following up on the bills passed in the two previous Congresses.

As for the waning time left in this Congress, the senator said he is “not confident that anything can be passed in the Senate before the August recess.” The “biggest opportunity” to pass legislation is the tax-credit extensions for renewable energy that have stalled repeatedly in the Senate. “I hope very much that we give priority to passing tax provisions,” said Bingaman. “If we’re blocked from being able to vote on this tax package this week, it will be a loss for this country.”