It was a bitter pill to swallow, but Rep. John E. Moss (D-Calif.) voted yesterday in favor of President Carter's emergency natural gas bill.
A frequent critic of the gas industry and a strong supporter of federal price controls, Moss joined most of his colleagues in supporting legislation to permit some sales of higher priced, intrastate gas until next Aug. 1 to regions of the country with critically short supplies.
The intrastate gas - there are no accurate figures on the supply - will be sold without normal Federal Power Commission price regulation.
In an interview yesterday, Moss said he voted for the bill "not from a conviction that it's a panacea for serious problems of record and near-record cold from the Deep South to the Midwest."
The principal result of the emergency act will be to give pipeline and distribution companies an opportunity to build reserves for next winter in contrast to the current season, when such supplemental resources were not gathered in great enough volume, Moss added.
However, he emphasized, none of these developments will dampen his continued opposition to deregulation of new natural gas prices, as demanded by the industry and many members of Congress.
"I'm not intransignet on the matter" of price but I have an obligation to the American consuming public that was urged [to switch] from competing fuels to natural gas because of the alleged reliability of supply, clean nature of the fuel and inexpensive cost," Moss declared.
"Like a person hooked on a drug, we're tied to it, dependent on it," he continued.
he root cause of the current shortage at local utilities, when there are adequate supplies under ground, is a "curve of rising expectations" that Moss said has infected the natural gas industry. In anticipation of reduced federal price controls, producers are expecting higher future profits and they are withholding discovered gas from the interstate system, he charged.
Only "firm" price regulation by the EPC, an agency Moss has charged with atempting to circumvent the law through recent natural gas price increases, will provide stable price expectations, Moss stated.
While he declined to forecast what will happen this year to legislation seeking an end to price controls, MOss said he is "hopeful" there won't be an "emotional response" or"panic." He said he would seek a meeting with Carter to discuss the President's views, which generally have been in favor of deregulating new gas.
One possible compromise, MOss said, would be to maintain price controls only for the largest natural gas producers - about 10 per cent of the total, which domintate the industry in terms of annual output. Many of these companies also are petroleum firms.
In the meantime, Moss revealed yesterday, the staff of his Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations had launched studies of alleged withholding of supplies and under-reporting by natural gas producers. Hearing on several cases will be scheduled later this winter, he added.
Moss also took issue with Mobil Corp., which placed two-page advertisements in The Washington Post and other newspapers last week, pointing to that company's own warnings over many years of inadequate supplies and its arguments in favor of ending price controls.
In a statement issued jointly with Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), the congressman said Mobil was seeking to capitalize "on a scarcity of energy resources."