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NOW on the News with Maria Hinojosa

Transcript: Sen. Jeff Bingaman on America's Energy Policy

» More about this interview

MARIA HINOJOSA: Hello and welcome to NOW on the News. I'm Maria Hinojosa. This week, we're talking to Senator Jeff Bingaman, who is about to take over as the new Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Welcome Senator Bingaman.

JEFF BINGAMAN: Nice to be with you, Maria.

HINOJOSA: So you are taking over from Pete Domenici. But I wanted to speak to you about someone else, Senator Inhofe, who is outgoing—Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee who will be replaced by Barbara Boxer. And something that—Senator Inhofe did this week. He held a committee meeting on how the media covers climate change. And I wanna tell you and—and our listeners what he said. He said—he said much of the mainstream media has subverted its role as an objective source of information on climate change into the role of an advocate. Then he goes on to criticize reports from "60 Minutes," ABC, CNN, "Time," The Associated Press, Reuters and The Discovery Channel. All those examples of what he says is—is one-sided reporting. And he basically criticizes the media in general for quote/unquote hyping scientifically unfounded climate alarmism. What do you think?

BINGAMAN: Well I'm not sure all his thinking—I—I do know that—he's—he's been—in denial on this issue. And—you know I—I think that the—evidence that's accumulated, The National Academy of Science in particular, their reports—but also—the United Nations—scientific group—I think it's—it's really overwhelming. That—the problem is serious and needs attention.

HINOJOSA: And specifically on the issue of green house gases, since our country is the world's biggest producer of green house gases, how do you wanna tackle that problem?

BINGAMAN: Well I think what we need to do is adopt a national, market based cap and trade system, which would put limits on the amount of green house gases that can be emitted. And then would allow companies to obtain allowances to emit. And they can buy those from others or buy them from the government. But—but the overall amount of emissions—in the—in the economy would then be ratcheted down. I think that's—that's the—most economically efficient way to do it. And I think that's what we oughta do. That's what Europe's been trying to—put into place. They already have that in place. And they're trying to expand it. We need to be doing the same thing.

HINOJOSA: I was in your state several months ago in—in the Four Corners area up in—Farmington. And I was interviewing—a whistle blower who use to work—he was the Director of the Federal Indian Minerals in Farmington, Kevin Gambrell. We were talking in general about the kind of situation that he had to experience as an auditor trying to get the royalties that are owed to the American people by the oil companies for their drilling in public lands. And he said that at one point he actually got calls from members of Congress. Saying, hey back off on pushing that oil company to pay the royalties. I was amazed when I heard that. And you would say what?

BINGAMAN: Well I'd say that—that's information we need to get out. And we need to look at that. Obviously—if—if people in Congress or in the Administration are interfering with or—or impeding the—the proper collection of royalties then we need to—we need to know about that. And we need to stop it.

HINOJOSA: Just wondering, Senator, when we're talking about billions of dollars owed to the American public and if there was some—some kind of funny business going on, do you think that could—that could amount to—to indictments?

BINGAMAN: Oh I think there's—always a possibility that there was some criminal activity involved in—in that. If—if—you know I—again, we don't have any of the facts that would—would—would—be required to prove any criminal activity at this point, but—

HINOJOSA: But you have this whistle blower.

BINGAMAN: Well that's true, I mean I—don't think—I don't think it's a crime for a person to make a phone call and—and suggest a particular course of action. It—it becomes a crime if they do that—in return for some compensation or—as a quick pro/quo for some—public—official act that they're engaged in. And so I mean I—I don't know all the elements of the crime that would be—involved here and have to be shown. But clearly if there's—if there are people—like the gentleman you referred to who—who believe that—they were improperly kept from doing their job, we need to hear from them.

HINOJOSA: I actually want to read something that you said when the energy bill was passed in 2005. You said, given the makeup of the Congress today and given the policies of this Administration this is as good a bill as I think we could hope to get. Well, so, the makeup of Congress has changed, you're in charge of the Energy Committee. So now, what can we expect? What will be your main priorities?

BINGAMAN: We're gonna try to put in law a requirement that more energy be produced from renewable sources. We're gonna be—try to put in—in law provisions that—require more efficient use of energy—throughout our economy. I think that would be a substantial—benefit. Then we're gonna try to—try to do all we can to—to stimulate a—a more diverse—set of sources that we get our energy from. So we're not so dependent upon foreign oil. We're not so dependent upon—on pulverized, coal which is the—the circumstance today. I hope we can make progress on this climate change issue in this Congress. So that's—that's a—a real priority. Of course, the Administration's gonna have to change its view in order for us to be able to move ahead and do anything of substance there. But I think it's still possible.

HINOJOSA: Thank you for joining us Senator Bingaman.

BINGAMAN: It's good talking to you.

HINOJOSA: I'm Maria Hinojosa. Until next time, thanks for listening to NOW on the News.

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